Background: Socioeconomic differences in health are determined mainly by socioeconomic differences in unhealthy behavior. Little is known, however, about the mechanisms that account for socioeconomic differences in unhealthy behavior, such as excessive alcohol consumption. In this paper we examined educational differences in excessive alcohol consumption in The Netherlands and whether these may be explained by educational differences in experienced stress and stress-moderating factors.
Methods: Data were obtained from the baseline survey of the Longitudinal Study on Socio Economic Health Differences in 1991. Excessive drinking was defined as drinking more than six glasses on 3 or more days a week or more than four glasses on 5 or more days a week. Socioeconomic status was indicated by educational level. Stressors were divided into psychosocial and material factors. Analyses were performed for women (n = 756) and men (n = 1,006) separately, among drinkers only.
Results: Excessive alcohol consumption was more common among lower educational groups. Material stressors, such as financial problems, deprivation, and income, were related to part of the educational gradient in excessive alcohol consumption. Differences in stress-moderating factors were not related to the educational gradient in excessive drinking.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that improvement of material conditions among the lower educational groups could result in a reduction of socioeconomic differences in excessive alcohol consumption.
Copyright 1999 American Health Foundation and Academic Press.