New Study Reports Binge Drinking Increases During Economic Downturn

October 17, 2011

Past research has concluded that during a bad economy health improves and behaviors such as excessive drinking decrease. It was assumed this was due to the fact that during unstable economic periods people have less available income to put towards behaviors that cause health problems such as drinking and smoking. However, a new study completed at the University of Miami has found just the opposite to be true.

In research led by Michael T. French, binge drinking and the number of individuals driving while intoxicated rise during periods of worsening economic conditions. As the situation with our economy in the United States has been poor for a period of years and is expected to stay that way for at least several more, this research is well-timed to potentially provide education to both the public and drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs throughout the country.

What Exactly Did U of M Researchers Find in the Study?

The U of M study has been the most technologically advanced of its kind and used factors related to alcohol use that had been neglected in any previous research that explored the link between macroeconomic conditions and binge drinking.

The research team analyzed alcohol use and abuse data ranging from 2001-2005. This data is far more current and applicable to our present situation than any used during previous studies on this topic. The results of the team’s research, published in the journal of Health Economics, found several interesting conclusions:

  • Even employed individuals drink in excess and receive DUI’s more often in a poor economy. Experts speculate this may be due to the psychological pressures from the fear of possibly losing their job.
  • Across the board in all populations and groups, as the state unemployment rate rose, so did alcohol consumption
  • The amount of binge drinking increases as salary level increases as well as for individuals with higher education
  • The more children per household the less individuals tend to abuse alcohol in relationship with economic factors
  • Those who are married also drink less during deteriorating economic conditions

Impacts For Society From the U of M Study

In order to avoid the collateral damage to an individual’s pocketbook and psyche associated with increased alcohol use, informing the public of this potential hazard during periods of economic uncertainty is one way to help the problem. And for those who fall prey to this issue, alcohol rehabs may have to prepare themselves for a larger number of patients during poor economic times.

Have you noticed an increase in the use or abuse of alcohol in your life or someone you know? Do you believe its related to the economy? We’d like to hear your thoughts below.

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