Alcohol consumption is a global problem that puts a burden on economic and community resources. Those who consume large amounts of alcohol and those who binge drink are more likely to develop physical health problems and injuries as a result. They require more medical attention and represent a high percentage of hospital emergency room admittances. In general, alcohol misuse can lead to problems within communities such as violence, crime, and because of the strain on medical services, even financial issues.
Research on alcohol use has suggested that people from low socioeconomic status (SES) areas are more likely to exhibit alcohol misuse behaviors than people from more advantaged neighborhoods. However, until now, no study has compared the effects of SES, gender, and age on drinking patterns and more specifically, on binge drinking.
To get a better idea of how SES is related to binge drinking, David L. Fone of the Institute of Primary Care & Public Health at the Cardiff University School of Medicine in the UK recently led a study that examined data from over 58,000 adult men. The participants completed annual surveys over a four-year period and reported on SES and drinking habits.
Fone found that although the participants living in wealthier areas drank more frequently to excess, the participants from the most disadvantaged neighborhoods reported the highest levels of binge drinking. In fact, 17.5% of low SES participants were binge drinkers compared to 10.6% of the higher SES participants.
Looking further, Fone found that the younger men were the most likely to engage in binge drinking behaviors while men from 35-64 reported the sharpest increases in binge drinking activity, especially those in low SES areas. The level of deprivation appeared to have the biggest impact on this age group and Fone believes that these men may use alcohol to cope with deteriorating economic conditions.
Also, low SES environments often have a higher level of social acceptance for risky behavior like binge drinking that is not always evident in more advantaged neighborhoods. Fone said that these findings provide clues into who may be most at risk for binge drinking and why. He added, “Understanding the socioeconomic patterns of harmful alcohol consumption is important for public health policy development.”
Fone, D.L., Farewell, D.M., White, J., et al. (2013). Socioeconomic patterning of excess alcohol consumption and binge drinking: A cross-sectional study of multilevel associations with neighbourhood deprivation. BMJ Open 2013;3:e002337. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-002337
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