When it comes to problem boozing, where you live matters
Washington D.C. [USA], May 16 : Your neighbourhood may impact how much you drink, according to a recent study.Neighbourhoods with greater poverty and disorganisation may play a greater role in problem drinking than the availability of bars and stores that sell hard liquor, the University of Washington-led research found.
While there is evidence for the link between neighbourhood poverty and alcohol use, the new twist that socioeconomics are more powerful environmental factors than even access to the substance itself suggests that improving a neighbourhood's quality of life can yield a range of benefits.
"Is there something about the neighbourhood itself that can lead to problems? As we learn more about those neighbourhood factors that are relevant, then this might point to population-level strategies to modify or improve the environments where people live," said researcher Isaac Rhew.
A common way to think of such broader changes is the "broken windows" theory of maintaining neighbourhoods to deter crime. In other words, implementing programs, services or clean-up efforts to improve a neighbourhood could help attain another goal: reducing problem drinking.
In examining the combination of multiple neighbourhood factors on alcohol use, the researchers turned to an ongoing research study of adults the university's Social Development Research Group has followed for decades. They interviewed more than 500 of the adults in the study, who were first identified as fifth-graders in Seattle elementary schools and now live throughout King County. In this neighbourhood study, 48 percent of participants were women; people of colour made up nearly 60 percent of respondents.
Researchers determined the U.S. Census Block Group (a geographic area of roughly 1,000 people) of each participant's residence, along with demographic data tied to that area and the number of locations that sold hard alcohol there. Participants also answered a series of questions about their alcohol consumption and their perceptions of their neighbourhood.
The study is published online in the Journal of Urban Health.