For me as a sociologist, substance use habits, practices and policies have provided a platform to study broader social processes such as continuities and changes in governmental programs, sociocultural norms and gender issues.
The purpose of my research has been to produce knowledge of how substance use is related to everyday life situations and intoxication, healthy or unhealthy subjectivities and safe or harmful practices, as well as how policies of substance use embody legitimate, problematic or unequal actions. As empirical data, I have used public health documents, parliament sessions, media texts, scientific writings, individual interviews, focus group discussions, survey data, advertisements, online forums, diaries and autobiographies.
2000 - Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Helsinki. Focus of my dissertation was on the changing relationships between the citizen and the state by analysing politicians’, journalists’, trade union activists’ and business people’s views on alcohol problems and alcohol policy from Finland and Estonia.
2000-2006 - Researcher at the Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Studies, where I continued substance use research by heading research projects that dealt with disorderly public drinking and control policies, young adults' drinking cultures in night-time economy, changes in the cultural position of drinking in Finland and Sweden among four generations, the gendered dynamics of drinking situations in the last 40 years and women’s substance use and health.
2006 - Professor at Stockholm University, SoRAD and the Department of Public Health Sciences.
- “Drinking, gender differences and social change. The gendered dynamics of Swedish drinking situations from a comparative perspective” (FORTE: 2014-00167, 2015-2018)
- “Why are young people drinking less than earlier?” (FORTE: 2016-00313, 2017-2020).
- Research programme “Responding to and reducing gambling problems - REGAPS”. Project leader Jenny Cisneros Örnberg (FORTE: 2016-07091, 2017-2022).
Alcohol and drug research, gendered substance use, young people’s drinking cultures, addiction, gambling, public health, theoretical sociology, qualitative methods, visual analysis, comparative research.
A selection from Stockholm University publication database
Covid-19 as a Generator of Pending Narratives
2021. Jukka Törrönen. International Journal of Qualitative Methods 20Article
The article describes the basic elements of the pending narrative and develops them into a tool of qualitative analysis by taking examples from Covid-19-related reports, opinions and editorials in the news. The pending narrative is a powerful story form, persuading the responsible actors in public to take action by stirring up compelling passion for a specific goal. It has a cogency that comes from the threat that if we do not act in the right way now, the continuity of life will be jeopardized. Crises are fertile breeding grounds for pending narratives, and the arrival of the Covid-19 virus is an expressive example of a situation threatening the continuity of human life around the globe. These circumstances feed on the emergence of pending narratives, which translate the unknown, uncertain and frightening future from open, multiple and unpredictable trajectories into more closed, predictable and controllable pathways. In the development of the pending narrative into a tool of qualitative analysis, the article takes influences from narratology, Bamberg's theory on positioning analysis, Greimas' narrative semiotics and critical discourse analysis. It proposes that in the analysis of pending narratives we benefit from the separation of three levels. On the first level, pending narratives highlight disorder and the menacing trajectory of the anti-subject, and outline a qualifying trajectory for the subject to overcome the threat. On the second level they persuade the responsible actors and the audience to identify with the qualifying trajectory and to take action or support it. And on the third level they articulate the kind of values, identities and moral order in aid of which the required action is taken.
Health, risk-taking and well-being
2020. Jukka Törrönen, Eva Samuelsson, Filip Roumeliotis. Health, Risk and Society 22 (5-6), 305-323Article
In the last 20 years, adolescents’ heavy drinking in many western countries has declined. Simultaneously, researchers have identified an increased interest in health among young people. The paper compares adolescents’ gendered discourses and practices on intoxication and health in order to clarify the role gender plays in their current low alcohol consumption. The data consists of semi-structured interviews about alcohol, health and leisure activities among adolescents aged between 15 and 19 (N = 56). In the coding of the material, we have singled out two approaches to health and well-being among the participants, which we name the ‘social’ and ‘physical health’ approaches. By drawing on Butler’s work on ‘gender as performativity’, Connell’s understanding of gendered identities as ‘multidimensional’ and Bourdieu’s concept of ‘habitus’, we analyse how the participants align with, negotiate or oppose the hegemonic masculinities and femininities in these approaches, and examine the everyday practices that the two approaches are embedded in. Our analysis shows that the participants’ gendered performances in the ‘physical health’ approach are more variable, reflective and critical than those in the ‘social health’ approach. Moreover, the physical health approach modifies young people’s risk-taking practices of heavy drinking and helps to reinforce practices that favour young people’s low alcohol consumption. We propose that the move from doing gender in relation to risk-taking by heavy drinking towards doing it more through health- and physical appearance-related activities may generate processes that narrow the gender gap between masculinities and femininities and encourage new kinds of interaction and gender blending between them.
‘Yes, but all responsible Finns want to stop living on credit’
2019. Janne Autto, Jukka Törrönen. Citizenship Studies 23 (1), 78-95Article
In 2015, the newly elected government of Finland introduced austerity measures designed to improve the public economy, which had not recovered from the financial crisis of 2007–2008. The article examines how the government sought to secure acceptance for austerity by appealing to citizens’ emotions. We analyse how the measures were emotionally motivated and how, according to the parties in power, citizens should and should not have felt about them. The article shows how the politics of austerity produces various and contradictory feeling rules. These seek to temper citizens’ negative emotions towards austerity, such as dissatisfaction over unfair sharing of pain and distrust towards political authority. Interestingly, the rules evoke hope that a better future lies ahead if citizens follow the proposed measures, yet prompt fears of what will happen if they do not. The government also emphasised its transparency and honesty to prompt empathy and trust from the population.
Why are young people drinking less than earlier? Identifying and specifying social mechanisms with a pragmatist approach
2019. Jukka Törrönen (et al.).Article
Recent surveys have found a strong decrease in alcohol consumption among young people and this trend has been identified in European countries, Australia and North America. Previous research suggests that the decline in alcohol consumption may be explained by changes in parenting style, increased use of social media, changes in gender identities or a health and fitness trend. We use qualitative interviews with drinking and non-drinking young people from Sweden (N = 49) to explore in what way and in what kinds of contexts these explanations may hold true and how they alone or together may explain declining alcohol consumption among young people. By using the pragmatist approach, we pay attention to what kinds of concerns, habits, practices, situations and meanings our interviewees relate to adolescents' low alcohol consumption or decline in drinking. By analyzing these matters, we aim to specify the social mechanisms that have reduced adolescents' drinking. Our paper discovers social mechanisms similar to previous studies but also a few that have previously been overlooked. We propose that the cultural position of drinking may have changed among young people so that drinking has lost its unquestioned symbolic power as a rite of passage into adulthood. There is less peer pressure to drink and more room for competing activities. This opening of a homogeneous drinking culture to the acceptance of differences may function as a social mechanism that increases the success of other social mechanisms to reduce adolescents' drinking. Furthermore, the results of the paper suggest a hypothesis of the early maturation of young people as more individualized, responsible, reflective, and adult-like actors than in earlier generations. Overall, the paper provides hypotheses for future quantitative studies to examine the prevalence and distribution of the identified social mechanisms, as well as recommends directions for developing effective interventions to support young people's healthy lifestyle choices.
Do teenagers’ and parents’ alcohol-related views meet? Analysing focus group data from Finland and Norway
2019. Jenni Simonen (et al.). Drugs 26 (1), 88-96Article
Aims: This study analyses how Finnish and Norwegian teenagers and parents of teenagers perceive the appropriateness, desirability or harmfulness of different drinking situations. The focus is on whether teenagers and parents perceive the situations similarly or differently.
Methods: Our data consist of focus group interviews from Finland and Norway with teenagers aged 14–17 years (n = 8 groups, n = 44 participants) and parents (n = 8 groups, n = 38). Three pictures portraying different drinking situations were presented to the participants, who were asked to describe (1) what kind of situation the picture depicts, (2) whether the way of drinking in the picture was acceptable or not and (3) whether they identified with the situation or not.
Findings: Our analysis showed that teenagers and parents defined the situations similarly and applied rather similar criteria when assessing the appropriateness of drinking. The most important criteria related to the amount and the way of drinking, and whether or not children were present in the situation. Regarding the identification with the situations, teenagers seemed to have somewhat stricter attitudes towards intoxication than adults, which can be perceived as a sign of an ongoing trend of decreasing youth drinking.
Conclusions: Overall, our analysis suggests that the alcohol worlds of parents and teenagers resembled each other, supporting the notion that the generational gap between parents and teenagers is diminishing.