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11-10-2012 | Public health | Article

Alcohol problems may be influenced by neighborhood


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medwireNews: 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.

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Piriya Mahendra, medwireNews Reporter

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