Alcohol consumption by Australian women during midlife has been increasing. Health promotion efforts to reduce alcohol consumption in order to reduce alcohol-related disease risk compete with the social contexts and value of alcohol in women’s lives. This paper draws on 50 qualitative interviews with midlife women (45–64 years of age) from different social classes living in South Australia in order to gain an understanding of how and why women might justify their relationships with alcohol. Social class shaped and characterized the different types of relationships with alcohol available to women, structuring their logic for consuming alcohol and their ability to consider reducing (or ‘breaking up with’) alcohol. We identified more agentic relationships with alcohol in the narratives of affluent women. We identified a tendency for less control over alcohol-related decisions in the narratives of women with less privileged life chances, suggesting greater challenges in changing drinking patterns. If classed differences are not attended to in health promotion efforts, this might mitigate the effectiveness of alcohol risk messaging to women.

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