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Longitudinal geographies of alcohol consumption: understanding adult problem drinking in England


ESRC Social Science Doctoral Training Centre

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Dr D Smith No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Research Questions:

- What are the geographic patterns of problematic alcohol consumption, attitudes and behaviours in the English adult (45+) population over time?
- Where and when (evening, weekends, special occasions) does ‘problem’ drinking occur within different age and social groups?

We present an exciting opportunity to combine interests in geography with public health to address an important challenge facing the UK: the population health impact of problematic alcohol consumption. This PhD will synthesise data from Health Survey for England (HSfE), Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OLS), English Longitudinal Survey on Ageing (ELSA) and Understanding Society (US) to better understand the longitudinal evolution of behaviour around alcohol, with a focus on the 45-64 age group.

Results from the most recent analyses of alcohol-related data indicate that consumption and purchasing of alcohol is decreasing (particularly in the youngest age group, 18-24), but the ill health effects of excessive alcohol consumption are increasing. This is thought to be due to people in older age groups now experiencing the delayed impacts of excessive consumption. Men aged 55-64 years also continue to consume the highest average number of units per week. For both men and women, higher risk drinking is most common in the 55-64 group. The 45-54 age group have the highest number of admissions to hospital where alcohol was wholly the cause (primary or secondary diagnosis)2 and in 2013/14 overall there was a 5% increase over 2012/13 in such admissions and a 115% increase over 2003/4. The drinking patterns of older adults that result in such a substantial rise in admissions needs to be better understood in order to minimise the negative impacts on individual and public health.

This PhD project, led by an interdisciplinary team of health geographers and public health specialists with extensive experience in the methods and topic area, will allow the student to conduct unique research into geographies of alcohol consumption for a timely, important contribution to our understanding of drinking behaviour particularly in the 45-64 population.
Skills required of student:
- Good understanding of epidemiological analysis using secondary data, illustrated through a good first degree in e.g. medical statistics, epidemiology or quantitative social sciences
- Interest in extending statistical modelling skills and working with secondary data
- Awareness of key issues in public health in the UK, with a focus on alcohol
- Ability to conduct literature reviews and write material for publication

There are two novel components to this research: first, the analysis of longitudinal (US, ELSA) and cross-sectional (HSfE, OLS) datasets to create a comprehensive overview of patterns in alcohol consumption, purchasing and attitudes to drinking in the older adult population. Following longitudinal and multilevel modelling of the data for key predictors of problem drinking and attitudes and patterns by age and gender, small-area estimation (SAE) methods will be used to estimate patterns and prevalence of adult drinking behaviours within small areas across England (Middle Super Output Areas, mean population of 7,860). Secondly, alcohol purchasing data from the annual Family Food [FF] survey will provide measures of where alcohol is purchased and consumed. Integrating this intelligence to our local estimates will help us to understand patterns and places of consumption, provide better insight into problematic drinking, and inform more effective population-appropriate interventions to reduce unhealthy levels of consumption.

The Southampton ESRC-DTC application form can be found on the Soton ESRC-DTC website. http://www.southampton.ac.uk/esrcdtc/applicationproceedure/index.page?

Applicants must also have completed a University of Southampton online application form for the appropriate PhD Programme prior to the submission of the DTC Studentship application form.

Funding Notes

This award is a +3 PhD studentship (3 years funding). Studentships awarded by the Southampton ESRC-DTC cover programme fees and an annual Maintenance Grant. (Annual Stipend £14296 - 2016/17 RCUK Rate).

Enhanced awards of an additional £3000 are available to those using Advanced Quantitative Methods as part of their research.
Southampton ESRC-DTC studentships also provide access to Research Training Support Grants, funding for Overseas Fieldwork, and additional funding awards for Overseas Institutional Visits, and Internships.

The PhD Programme of study for this studentship must be commenced in the 2016/17 Academic Year, with an expected latest start date of January 2017.


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