Call for more research to help new dads reduce alcohol consumption

A new international study led by Glasgow Caledonian University researchers found a huge gap in research exploring men’s experiences of drinking in the transition to fatherhood.

The review ‘Exploring men’s alcohol consumption in the context of becoming a father’, funded by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), also found a lack of research into what is needed to help men reduce their drinking during this life-changing time.

Dr Elena Dimova, Research Fellow at the Substance Use research group in GCU’s Research Centre for Health (ReaCH), led the five-month study that looked at evidence on men’s experiences of alcohol consumption in the context of fatherhood, and on the effectiveness of existing interventions to reduce drinking among new fathers.

She said: “The transition to fatherhood may present a ‘teachable moment’ when men evaluate their health, modify existing health behaviours and adopt new ones.

“We found only five articles published in peer-reviewed journals. Three qualitative studies explored fathers’ experiences of alcohol consumption and two studies reported interventions to reduce alcohol consumption in new and expectant fathers. Only one study explored in depth men’s views and experiences of drinking during fatherhood and found that most men believed that fathers should be a role model for their children.

“Text message interventions offer a promising avenue for engaging with men but their effectiveness in addressing alcohol use in new and expectant fathers is unclear.”

The review will be shared with healthcare professionals, clinicians, governments, alcohol charities and support groups around the world in a bid to highlight the potential of fatherhood as an ideal opportunity to address men’s drinking.

Dr Dimova added: “More research is needed to help new fathers reduce or stop their drinking. We need to explore men’s experiences and find ways to support and engage with them in the pre and post-natal period.”

IAS Head of Research Dr Sadie Boniface highlighted recent data from the Office for National Statistics which showed alcohol-specific deaths are at the highest levels since records began, and the rate among men is double that of women.

She said: “Becoming a parent is one major life event that can trigger changes in alcohol use for years to come. We funded this review to explore experiences of alcohol consumption and interventions to reduce drinking among men becoming fathers.

“This was an international review, and it is striking how sparse the evidence base is on fatherhood and alcohol use. This review found the transition to fatherhood has been overlooked, but holds great potential for interventions to reduce hazardous and harmful drinking in future research.

“By supporting this review through our competitive Small Grants Scheme, we hope that this project is a springboard for the research team to conduct more work in this field. This would complement broader policy responses to tackle alcohol harm that are also needed, targeting price, availability and marketing.”

Dr Dimova will be presenting her research at an Alcohol Occassionals event organised by the Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), the Scottish Alcohol Research Network (SARN) and the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) from 12.30-2pm today, February 25. To join click here.

The review is published on the IAS website here.

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