Table 1

Themes identified by content analysis

ThemeDescriptionExample tweets (paraphrased)Percentage (number) of tweets expressing themePercentage (number) of accounts expressing themeMean (SD) retweetsMean (SD) favourites
Broadly supportive
1. SharingShares recommendations or health information from the guidelines; initiates discussion; provides tips to cut down or stop drinking; links to relevant services or resourcesRead the new alcohol guidelines from Department of Health
Drink slowly, consume with food, alternate alcohol with water
30.0% (721)29.2% (541)2.96 (12.74)1.96 (8.11)
2. AgreementSupports the guidelines; agrees or accepts the need for guidelines; criticises those who are hostile to guidelinesGuidelines warn about risk of drinking during pregnancy—right to know
Complaining about #alcoholguidelines? They’re for our own health benefits, so you can make an informed choice
11.0% (264)12.9% (239)1.84 (10.15)1.53 (5.97)
3. Will heedIntend to cut down alcohol consumption; no change needed as consumption already within guidelinesI must limit my intake this weekend. You only get one shot at life!
14 units a week? PHEW! Should be ok with my bottle of beer on a Saturday night
2.7% (65)3.4% (63)1.00 (5.17)1.77 (5.00)
Broadly unsupportive
4. You should drinkEncourages others to drink or promotes drinking generallyIf you’re asking is one more drink too much, you’re not drunk enough
There's “no safe level of drinking” so everybody is getting smashed
11.9% (285)14.3% (266)0.75 (2.16)1.96 (4.15)
5. DisagreementGeneral or specific disagreement with the guidelines that does not fall into any other themeI don’t trust government advice. How has the research been done? There are so many factors.
Outrageous to suggest that effects of alcohol on men and women are equal. Absurd!
11.2% (270)12.7% (236)0.82 (3.38)1.34 (3.07)
6. Will ignoreWill personally ignore the guidelines, consume over the guideline amount or intend to drink alcohol in responseMore noise I’ll ignore, because alcohol is nice
Tonight I’m going to smash back a bottle of red. Fuck you
9.5% (228)11.8% (219)0.94 (6.89)2.00 (6.48)
7. LibertarianismGovernments and public bodies should not interfere in private behaviours; advice is untrustworthy; government has ulterior motives for policy decisionsSick of being told what to eat and drink
The nanny state rears its ugly head once again. Why can’t they let people make their own decisions?
6.2% (149)7.4% (138)1.54 (6.30)1.66 (4.51)
8. ConfusionConfused by the guidelines generally or a specific aspect of them; guidelines will be confusing to others; government advice on alcohol or health is inconsistentRed wine is good for you, then it's bad for you, make your mind up!
They won’t engage the public by referring to “units” rather than commonly understood measures
4.3% (103)5.3% (99)1.80 (12.40)1.56 (6.42)
9. FatalismDeath/disease is inevitable no matter what health measures we adopt; alcohol is needed to relieve life's sufferingYou know what? Living puts you in danger of dying
Enjoy life, ignore the constant health warnings, you are going to die whatever
3.4% (81)4.3% (79)5.00 (30.56)6.68 (33.53)
10. Won't workGuidelines will be ineffectual because: people already understand and accept the risk; alcohol use is socially/culturally ingrained; health information does not change behaviourPeople have been drinking alcohol for thousands of years. They won’t stop now
I didn’t know alcohol was bad for me! These new guidelines will make me stop immediately!” said nobody
2.7% (64)3.3% (62)0.20 (1.07)0.92 (2.12)
11. HumourJokes, sarcasm, wit, but no commentary or opinion on alcohol guidelinesCan we save up units like people at WeightWatchers save points?
Drink responsibly—don’t spill your drink!
9.2% (221)10.7% (198)0.74 (1.77)1.86 (3.59)