Centre for Public Health

Liverpool John Moores University

Public Health Institute - Liverpool John Moores University

World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Violence Prevention

Part of the Liverpool John Moores University

Research Engagement and Impact Team – Alcohol Research

The Research Engagement and Impact Team work collaboratively with communities, voluntary and third sector organisations, local authorities and health and social care services to deliver research which has direct application back into practice. Alcohol is one priority topic area for the team, with particular focus on recovery and social capital. The team have expertise in mixed-methods research, using creative and innovative ways to evidence impact.

Examples of research projects in this area:

ARUK funded project: An exploration of the role of alcohol in relation to living situation and significant life events for the homeless population in Merseyside, UK – Ross-Houle, K., Venturas, C., Bradbury, A. & Porcellato, L. (December, 2016).

Comic Relief funded project: An evaluation of four recovery communities across England – Rebecca Harrison, Madeleine Cochrane, Marissa Pendlebury, Robert Noonan, Lindsay Eckley, Harry Sumnall, Hannah Timpson (January, 2017).

Evaluation of the Liverpool Rehabilitation, Education, Support & Treatment (REST) Centre. Ellie McCoy, Jane Oyston, Dr Kim Ross-Houle, Madeleine Cochrane, Geoff Bates, Lisa Jones, Mark Whitfield, Jim McVeigh.

Case study example

ARUK funded project: An exploration of the role of alcohol in relation to living situation and significant life events for the homeless population in Merseyside, UK – Ross-Houle, K., Venturas, C., Bradbury, A. & Porcellato, L. (December, 2016).

Background

Homelessness is an increasing issue in England and across the UK. An estimated 10% of the population in the UK have been homeless at some point in their lifetime. Alcohol misuse is linked with the cause and effect of homelessness and high levels of alcohol consumption are considered to be the cause of major health risks amongst the homeless population. Stigma and low levels of social support can worsen homelessness and addiction, making these issues more difficult to overcome.

Research has been undertaken to explore the relationship between alcohol consumption, living situation and significant life events. The research incorporated the concept of recovery capital to explore the resources needed to support people to overcome homelessness and alcohol addiction.

Methods

The research used life history calendar interviews to explore changes in research participants’ alcohol perception in relation to their living situation and significant life events. Semi-structured interviews explored previous and current living situation and alcohol consumption. Participants were then asked to map changes in a calendar grid alongside significant life events such as births, relationships and deaths. Participants also took photographs to reflect their everyday experiences.

Findings

Findings showed that addiction was a primary reason why participants drank alcohol, however, not all had developed an addiction; this was felt to be a common misconception of those who consume alcohol on the streets. There were differences between participants as to whether their alcohol dependence had caused them to become homeless or whether their being homeless has led to them becoming dependent on alcohol. Not all participants reported being dependent on alcohol but did report consuming high levels of alcohol.

Relationships were an important influence on alcohol consumption and homelessness. Secure relationships were often associated with abstinence or low levels of alcohol consumption. Relationship breakdowns were often mapped alongside increases in alcohol consumption and transitions from stable to unstable housing on the life history calendars. Domestic violence, family relationships, the death of loved ones and physical and mental illness were also influencers on living situation, alcohol consumption and resilience to overcome these issues.

A number of participants discussed loss or reduction in benefits and how this had led to them becoming homeless. This subsequently impacted on their alcohol consumption as they had increased their drinking as a means of coping with the stress this had caused.

Conclusion

The findings from this research highlight the importance of social capital during significant life events. It was often a lack of social capital that led to homelessness and increased alcohol consumption. In order to overcome alcohol dependence and homelessness, participants need to develop recovery capital. The sample that was recruited for this project was small, and is therefore not representative of the experiences of the homeless population in general. However, the findings demonstrate how further research is needed in order to further explore the relationships between alcohol consumption, living situation and significant life events.