Problems associated with excessive alcohol consumption increase as economic conditions deteriorate, the researchers found.
Health economists at the University of Miami and the University of Colorado looked at data from 2001 to 2005 to determine rates of binge drinking, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. They compared these rates with the rates of unemployment in the state.
The study is the first to show that risky drinking increases even when incomes decline during an economic downturn.
More Binge Drinking Days
The researchers found that as state unemployment rates rise, drinkers are:
- Likely to have more binge drinking days.
- More likely to drive while intoxicated.
- More likely to engage in problematic drinking.
"The way we explain this is even though employed individuals have a job, they could be affected psychologically (e.g., fear of losing their job) from an economic downturn, leading them to have more drinking days and driving under the influence episodes as the State-level unemployment rate increases," says lead researcher Michael T. French.
Marriage, Children a Factor
Other findings of the study include:
- The increase in drinking was true for all population groups.
- Blacks and those aged 18 to 24 showed the greatest increases in binge drinking.
- People who were married and had children were less likely to increase drinking.
- Those with higher education levels and income levels were more likely to binge drink.