Senior Researcher in Public Health (MRes, BA)
areas of expertise
Amanda Atkinson is a Senior Researcher within the Public Health Institute. Over the last 10 years Amanda has worked on a range of research projects within the Institute, predominantly relating to young people, drinking cultures, alcohol and substance use. Her general research interests relate to consumption and identity, media representations, and gender relations. She has a particular interest in media representations of substance use and gender and is currently writing in this area (PhD by publication). Recent research projects Amanda has led include a Joseph Rowntree Foundation funded project exploring the influence of media representations of alcohol on young people’s drinking, an ARUK funded project exploring the role of Social Network Sites (e.g. Facebook) in young people’s drinking cultures and gendered identities, and the 2011/2014 European School Survey on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD). She uses both qualitative and quantitative methods (with a specialism in qualitative methods) and has conducted research with a range of groups, including children and young people, substance users, prisoners, victims of domestic violence, young offenders, practitioners, policy makers and media professionals. Amanda is also the UK coordinator for the EMCDDAs Early Warning System on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS, popularly known as ‘Legal Highs)’ and lead on both local and European research projects on NPS. She is supervisor for a number of PhDs related to NPS, drug user identity and social media.
Amanda is a volunteer for the Real Love street team, a group of volunteers who go out weekly to help meet the needs of people who are homeless and living on the streets of Liverpool. She is also a volunteer for The Homeless Period an initiative that provides sanitary items to homeless and vulnerable women across Merseyside, and an artist based at Ley Lines studios creating art works informed by her research findings.
She is peer reviewer for a number of journals including Drugs: Education Prevention and Policy, Addiction Research and Theory, Drug and Alcohol Review, BMC Public Health and Journal of Gender Studies, and a member of the Fawcett Society and the BSA Alcohol Study Group.
Amanda Atkinson's Publications
Constructing alcohol identities – The role of Social Network Sites (SNS) in young peoples’ drinking cultures
The report presents findings of a research study exploring the role and place of Social Networking Sites (SNS) in young people’s drinking culture, and in the construction of alcohol-related identities in a peer group context. The theoretical concept of social, cultural, symbolic and economic capital was applied in order to understand the importance of drinking and alcohol marketing in young peoples’ friendship groups and the significant role of SNS in symbolising valued drinking practices within and between peer groups. It reports findings of three stages of data collection and analysis. Firstly, a content analysis of SNS (Facebook, Twitter) alcohol marketing and user interaction with brands (N=5) popular among young people was conducted. This was then compared to the use of SNS by UK based alcohol health promotion campaigns. Interviews and discussions with friendship groups of young people (16-21 years) (N=70) were then conducted to explore the role of SNS and official and peer generated alcohol content in their drinking cultures and individual and peer group identities. This was followed by an analysis of young people’s (N=43) Facebook profiles to examine how alcohol features as part of their online identities and friendship networks
Substance Use among 15-16 year olds in the UK
The European Survey Project on Alcohol and Drugs (ESPAD) is conducted every four years and collects comparable data on trends in substance use among 15-16 year old school pupils across Europe. It is a high quality survey and provides important data to support policy, practice and research. In 2011 36 countries and around 100,000 students took part; with 1712 being from the UK. The UK has taken part in ESPAD since it began in 1995, and the survey is now in its fifth data collection stage. This briefing presents a focussed summary of key results for the UK from the 2011 survey that was undertaken on behalf of the UK by the Centre for Public Health. It should be read alongside the full ESPAD report (see www.espad.org). Longer-term trends are also discussed and comparisons are made with other surveys of substance use among school pupils in the UK. The full ESPAD report contains further data on a range of associated substance use and risk taking behaviours.
A systematic review of qualitative research on the views, perspectives and experiences of hepatitis B and C testing among practitioners and people at greatest risk of infection
Amanda Atkinson's Papers
‘Isn’t it mostly girls that do pre-drinks really?’ Young men and women’s accounts of pre-loading in the UK.
Drugs: Education,, 2017.
Abstract Pre-loading, the consumption of off-sale alcohol within private settings before socialising in licenced premises, is common among young people. The research explored young people’s accounts of pre-loading within their experience of wider peer group drinking occasions in the UK
‘If I don’t look good, it just doesn’t go up’: A qualitative study of young women’s drinking cultures and practices on Social Network Sites
Int J Drug Policy. 2016 Dec;38:50-62, 2016.
Abstract BACKGROUND: Young women in the UK often partake in a culture of intoxication in the pursuit of pleasure and friendship fun. Experiences of intoxication and drinking spaces remain highly gendered, and relative to men, women continue to find their behaviours in drinking spaces more constrained and scrutinised. Simultaneously, young women now express themselves via Social Network Sites (SNS), where they display drinking experiences and where they perform, negotiate and display contemporary femininities. METHODS: The research explored young women's experiences of drinking and intoxication, the use of SNS in their drinking cultures and the display of drinking practices on SNS through group interviews (n=12) with women (n=37) aged 16-21 from one city in the North-West of England, UK. RESULTS: The practice of uploading drinking photographs to SNS played an important role in displaying young women's popularity, enhancing friendship fun and belonging, and in positioning the hyper-sexual feminine look as the norm in drinking spaces. Both intoxication and the hyper-sexual and feminine look challenged traditional notions of respectable femininity, while the highly groomed feminine look itself was threatened by drunkenness. As such, young women invested much work and effort in self-surveillance and in managing the display of their drinking behaviours on SNS. CONCLUSION: The dilemmas in contemporary femininity created by the juxtaposition of hyper-sexual femininity and the culture of intoxication are reproduced on SNS. Controlling and restricting certain content on SNS with the aim of achieving the 'right' feminine self-presentation resulted in a narrowly set of body oriented and behavioural feminine attributes being presented as the norm, and an overly positive online representation of young women's drinking experiences.
An exploration of alcohol advertising on social networking sites: an analysis of content, interactions and young people’s perspectives
Addiction Research & Theory, 2016.
Abstract: Young people increasingly communicate and interact via social digital media such as Social Network Sites (SNS), where they discuss and display alcohol-related content. SNS have also become an important aspect of the alcohol industry’s multi-platform marketing strategies, which may contribute to the creation of intoxigenic digital spaces in which young people learn about alcohol. This paper presents findings of a content analysis of the extent, nature, and user interaction with SNS-based alcohol marketing for brands popular among young people in the UK. It provides a systematic analysis of both official and user generated marketing content on brand Facebook and Twitter profiles, and user interaction with such content. Findings from peer group interviews (N = 14) also present young people’s (N = 70) perspectives and experiences regarding alcohol marketing on SNS. New SNS engagement marketing strategies extended existing multi-platform brand marketing. Young people interacted with such strategies as part of their identity-making practices, yet through a discourse of immaturity distanced themselves from certain brands, online marketing practices and the idea that their own actions were influenced by marketing. Local night life economy marketing appeared more meaningful and relevant to young people and led to further interaction with brand marketing. Implications of the findings are discussed in relation to the influence of alcohol marketing on young people, and the implications for current regulatory frameworks.