The article reports the alcohol-related findings of a qualitative study that examined health beliefs and behaviours among Irish people in London. The findings elicited though key informant and lay focus groups and semi-structured interviews, illuminated the social and socioeconomic background to excessive alcohol use among middle-aged Irish men who left Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s. The main investigation collected data from three
key informant and two lay focus groups and twenty individual in-depth interviews
with Irish born men and women aged 30 and over. The findings describe the economic role of the pub and alcohol for men in the construction industry as well protecting them from homesickness, isolation and alienation in an unwelcoming and hostile environment. They illustrate the use of alcohol later in life to cope with physical and psychological pain, social stress and the symptoms of mental illness. The use of alcohol as a culturally sanctioned coping strategy is considered, exploring the ambivalent culture of alcohol in Ireland and in particular the tolerance of excessive consumption among men. The article explores the possibility that tolerant attitudes to alcohol in Ireland persist on migration to Britain and are then confounded by a culture of binge drinking among young people in general. The conclusion argues for further research and for culturally sensitive healthcare and health promotion strategies that take account of cultural and structural factors impacting on young Irish men in Britain. Current NHS policies on equality, alcohol and suicide offer timely opportunities to address alcohol misuse in order to improve physical and mental health and reduce the incidence of suicide among Irish men in Britain.
Publications / Bibliography
Tilki, M. (2003). A study of the health of Irish born people in London: The relevance of social and economic factors, health beliefs and behaviour. Unpublished PhD thesis. London: Middlesex University.
Tilki, M. (2006) 'The social contexts of drinking among Irish men in London', Drugs: education, prevention and policy. Volume 13, Issue 3, pages 247 - 261