Sheffield Addictions Research Group (SARG), a centre of excellence for alcohol and public health research, is seeking two PhD students to investigate women’s drinking and its impact on health.

Both projects explore the rising trend of women’s alcohol consumption in England and its consequences. While one project will take a quantitative approach, analysing large datasets, the other will use predominantly qualitative methods to focus on women’s experiences in traditionally male-dominated professions known for heavy drinking cultures.

1. What’s happening with women’s drinking? Understanding gender inequalities in alcohol consumption and harm in England

Supervisors: Colin Angus and Dr Abi Stevely

Levels of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm are higher among men, but this gap has been narrowing over time, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when alcohol deaths have risen significantly more among women than men. However, relatively little is understood about changes in women’s drinking and how these changes may have influenced trends in alcohol-attributable harm. We also do not have a clear understanding of how the overall harm profile of alcohol differs between men and women and how these differences may have changed over time.

This project will make use of a wide range of survey, market research and epidemiological data to quantify and understand trends and patterns in women’s drinking in recent decades and how these relate to shifts in drinking culture in England over the same period. You will develop new methods to quantify gender differences in the overall impact that alcohol consumption has on hospital admissions and mortality and how these have changed since 2001, use leading epidemiological modelling tools to forecast how these trends may play out in the future and consider the implications of these trends for future gender inequalities in health.

The results of this project will provide a deep understanding of gender differences in alcohol consumption and harm and the role that alcohol plays in gender inequalities in health. The findings will help to inform future alcohol policy decisions.

Find out more and apply online >
2. A qualitative investigation of the connections between changes in women’s alcohol consumption and their participation in heavy drinking professions

Supervisors: Dr Laura Fenton and Prof John Holmes

Women’s alcohol consumption has increased substantially over recent decades in the United Kingdom and other high-income countries. At the same time, women have entered in larger numbers into professions previously dominated by men, such as journalism, law and finance. The cultural practices of these professions have historically involved heavy drinking but we have a limited understanding of how women’s entry into them has interacted with their increased drinking. Investigating how women experience and negotiate the drinking cultures of different professions can therefore provide us with a stronger understanding of the underlying practices that contribute to the rise in women’s drinking and how this trend might be mitigated.

This project sits within a set of studies undertaken by the University of Sheffield’s Addictions Research Group that aim to understand trends and patterns in alcohol consumption, and how they are affected by public health interventions. In particular, we have previously used qualitative methods to analyse the reasons for the decline in young people’s alcohol consumption and want to apply similar approaches to trends in adult drinking.

This PhD project aims to understand how women in professions with cultures of heavy drinking experience and negotiate these cultures, what consequences they perceive their involvement in these cultures to have on their own drinking, and the implications of this for public health policy.

Find out more and apply online >


The deadline for applications is Wednesday 26 June 2024.