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Economic Downturn Increasing Alcohol Abuse?

By October 26, 2011

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Most research shows that when the economy takes a downturn, overall excessive drinking and alcohol abuse decreases simply because people who do not have jobs do not have the money to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as heavy alcohol consumption. However, a new five-year study has found just the opposite to be true.

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.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that this increase in drinking held true for employees who still had their jobs.

"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.
Source: French, MT, et al, "Easing The Pain of an Economic Downturn: Macroeconomic Conditions and Excessive Alcohol Consumption." Health Economics 12 September 2011.

More About Binge Drinking:

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October 31, 2011 at 9:37 pm
(1) John says:

The findings make sense. Alcohol is relatively cheap and seems like a way to cope with fear and discouragement. The problem is, as most of us know, that it does not help and only makes life’s problems harder. Being sober and trusting in true friends and God is the way.

November 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm
(2) John says:

Fully agree w/ John! Lost my job in Mar & was so depressed, I drank myself to sleep everyday. Nothing was resolved after five months so after talking w/ my counselor she told me I needed to go to AA. Thank goodness I did because that’s where the true fellowship is. Never thought life would be so fufilling while sober but it is. Of course, you can’t do this alone w/o trusting God completely & let Him be in control;not you.

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