Background: Previous studies suggest that the physical availability of alcohol may mediate the association between neighbourhood-level material deprivation and alcohol consumption. This study tests the relationships between neighbourhood-level deprivation, alcohol availability, and individual-level alcohol consumption using a multilevel analysis.
Methods: Data are from cross-sectional surveys conducted between 1979 and 1990 as part of the Stanford Heart Disease Prevention Program (SHDPP). Women and men (n = 8197) living in four northern/central California cities and 82 neighbourhoods were linked to neighbourhood deprivation variables derived from the US census (e.g. unemployment, crowded housing) and to measures of alcohol availability (density of outlets in the respondent's neighbourhood, nearest distance to an outlet from the respondent's home, and number of outlets within a half mile radius of the respondent's home). Separate analyses were conducted for on- and off-sale outlets.
Results: The most deprived neighbourhoods had substantially higher levels of alcohol outlet density than the least deprived neighbourhoods (45.5% vs 14.8%, respectively). However, multilevel analyses showed that the least deprived neighbourhoods were associated with the heaviest alcohol consumption, even after adjusting for individual-level sociodemographic characteristics (OR 1.30, CI 1.08-1.56). Alcohol availability was not associated with heavy drinking and thus did not mediate the relationship between neighbourhood deprivation and heavy alcohol consumption.
Conclusions: Although alcohol availability is concentrated in the most deprived neighbourhoods, women and men in least deprived neighbourhoods are most likely to be heavy drinkers. This mismatch between supply and demand may cause people in the most deprived neighbourhoods to disproportionately suffer the negative health consequences of living near alcohol outlets.