How Covid-19 restrictions affected young people's well-being and drinking practices: Analyzing interviews with a socio-material approach

Int J Drug Policy. 2022 Dec:110:103895. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2022.103895. Epub 2022 Oct 20.


Background: The Covid-19 restrictions - as they made young people's practices in their everyday life visible for reflection and reformation - provide a productive opportunity to study how changing conditions affected young people's well-being and drinking practices.

Methods: The data is based on qualitative interviews with 18- to 24-year-old Swedes (n=33) collected in the Autumn 2021. By drawing on the socio-material approach, the paper traces actants, assemblages and trajectories that moved the participants towards increased or decreased well-being during the lockdown.

Results: The Covid-19 restrictions made the participants reorganize their everyday life practices emphatically around the home and communication technologies. The restrictions gave rise to both worsened and improved well-being trajectories. In the worsened well-being trajectories, the pandemic restrictions moved the participants towards loneliness, loss of routines, passivity, physical barriers, self-centered thoughts, negative effects of digital technology, sleep deficit, identity crisis, anxiety, depression, and stress. In the improved well-being trajectories, the Covid-19 restrictions brought about freedom to study from a distance, more time for significant others, oneself and for one's own hobbies, new productive practices at home and a better understanding of what kind of person one is. Both worsened and improved well-being trajectories were related to the aim to perform well, and in them drinking practices either diminished or increased the participants' capacities and competencies for well-being.

Conclusions: The results suggest that material domestic spaces, communication technologies and performance are important actants both for alcohol consumption and well-being among young people. These actants may increase or decrease young people's drinking and well-being depending on what kinds of relations become assembled.

Keywords: Covid-19; Drinking habits; Interviews; Socio-material approach; Well-being; Young people.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Humans
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Young Adult