Alcohol problems may be influenced by neighborhood

Disadvantaged groups living in poor neighborhoods are much more likely to suffer alcohol problems than their wealthier counterparts, research shows.

People living in low-income areas are generally more likely to abstain from alcohol than those from more affluent areas, with the exception of African-American and Hispanic men, report Katherine Karriker-Jaffe (Alcohol Research Group, Emeryville, California, USA) and colleagues in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

But among those who do drink, White women and African-American men from low-income neighborhoods are significantly more likely to experience alcohol-related consequences, such as trouble at work, physical fights, and run-ins with the police as than their richer counterparts.

Karriker-Jaffe and team also observed that among individuals who drink, low-income African-American men were significantly more likely than their richer counterparts to be heavy drinkers.

In a press statement, Karriker-Jaffe pointed out that bars and other alcohol vendors may be more common in low- than high-income neighborhoods, leading to the higher incidence of alcohol-related consequences in these areas.

On the other hand, she explained, there may be factors in low-income neighborhoods that limit alcohol consumption, such as less disposable income to afford alcohol, or cultural perceptions of drinking, explaining the high abstinence rates in these areas.

"There are a lot of aspects of your environment that can affect your drinking behavior and what happens when you do choose to drink," Karriker-Jaffe commented.

She believes that the findings of their study indicate a complex relationship between socioeconomic status and alcohol consumption, but says it is not yet clear why there are differences according to race and gender.

Karriker-Jaffe speculates that the higher rate of heavy drinking in African-American men of low socioeconomic status could be related to multiple stressors in their lives. The higher rate of drinking-related consequences could be explained by the bigger police presence in low-income African-American neighborhoods, she adds.

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