Binge Norway: Alcohol consumption in the transition to adulthood (completed)

Norway is a binge drinking country, and over half of 28-year old Norwegians binge drink on a typical drinking occasion (5 + units). Numerous research reports have highlighted the wide range of adverse consequences associated with this pattern of alcohol consumption, such as unintentional injuries, interpersonal violence, traffic accidents and social exclusion. However, the bulk of studies have been based on survey- and register-based data. Less is known about the ritual, symbolic and sociocultural aspects of binge drinking. What kind of norms regulates the use of alcohol? What kinds of sanctions are used against those who break such norms? How do binge drinkers tell stories about their experiences with alcohol use and intoxication?


About the project

The study takes as a starting point that the attraction to binge drinking can only be understood in the more general context of socialization, partying and associated transgressive behaviors. Drinking and drunkenness are performed according to certain rules and rituals, and they may carry with them promises of social integration and experiences of community. However, subtle norms are easily misinterpreted, and the experience of intoxication can result in vulnerable situations, quarrels or violence, and lead up to negative emotions and social stigma. Both such integrative aspects and negative experiences are subsequently interpreted by the participants, individually and collectively. Recent research have, for instance, shown how participants in drinking parties often share drinking stories with each other, and that an important individual motive may be to build a repertoire of personal drinking stories. Thus, certain narratives may shape drinking events and situations, and a key aspect of this project will be to identify and discuss such narratives and narrative practices.

Another dimension of the binge drinking experience is related to space: The project is also designed to investigate how young people often seem to be attracted to certain “liminal places”, which may reflect their liminal status as “youth”. This may result in tensions with other generations. Such places may be commercial bars or clubs, or – for more marginal youth – parks or areas around malls in the city centers. Holidays and music festivals may give opportunities for unusual uses of legal and illegal substances. An interesting aspect of the celebration of high school graduation, called russefeiring, seems to be that the participants create such liminal spaces themselves, by means of buses which are rolling in groups around in the city, and even to other cities.


  1. How is alcohol used by teenagers and young adults in Norway? What is the key to the high level of binge drinking?
  2. What kind of norms surrounds the use of alcohol? How are these norms enforced?
  3. In what way do certain situations, such as “russetida” and “fadderuka”, imply that an alternative set of norms is at work?
  4. To what degree is alcohol associated with experiences of community, and positive stories about fun and transgression?
  5. What characterizes youths’ drinking stories, and what are their functions and implications?
  6. To what degree are unpleasant experiences, such as violence and sexual victimization part of the stories people tell about alcohol


We have conducted in-depth qualitative interviews and conducted participant observation with three groups of alcohol users: 30 participants were interviewed about a 2-weeks long  celebration of  high school graduation in Norway (“russetida”). Another 30 participants were interviewed about an introduction-week to the University of Oslo, where the use of alcohol is a key ingredient (“fadderuka”). Finally, 30 participants (22-30 years) who have a high level of alcohol consumption were interviewed more generally about binge-drinking, illegal drug use and partying.

In all three data sets we have collected information about alcohol consumption, rituals and organization of parties, and the pleasures and pains of partying. We have also gone more in depth on themes related specifically to the specific festivities they were involved in. All data sets are coded by the same assistants, and some research topics will be investigated by means of all three data sets.


The project period is from 2013 to 2016. "The project is connected thematically and organizationally to the NFR-funded research project Cannabis: Subculture, Economy and Social Marginality.


Evind Fjær Grip (MA Sociology) is in charge of organizing data collection and coding, and he plays a key role in coordinating the project. Master student Kristine Vaadal writes her thesis based on data about from the project. Associate professor Sveinung Sandberg and professor Willy Pedersen are also attached to the project.


  • Fjær, E. (2012). The day after drinking: interaction during hangovers among young Norwegian adults. Journal of Youth Studies, 15: 995-1010.
  • Pedersen, W, von Soest, T (2013). Socialization to binge drinking. Drug and Alcohol Dependence,
  • Tutenges, S. & S. Sandberg (2013): Intoxicating stories: the characteristics, contexts and implications of drinking stories among Danish youth. International Journal of Drug Policy. Published online ahead of print: doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2013.03.011



Published Sep. 25, 2013 1:46 PM - Last modified Apr. 25, 2016 12:30 PM