Background: Although a short-term effect of neighborhood characteristics on individual alcohol abuse has been demonstrated by a quasi-experimental residential mobility study, the obversed effect of alcohol problem involvement on place of residence and residential character has not been studied. We test the alcoholism effect on place of residence, and we also attempt to replicate the neighborhood-to-alcoholism effect.
Methods: A sample of 206 Caucasian men (average age was 33) who were systematically recruited for alcoholism through a court record search of drunk driving offenses and door-to-door canvassing, in a 4-county-wide area were followed up at 3-year intervals in a prospective study of the course and outcomes of alcoholism. Participants' alcoholism diagnoses were made by semistructured diagnostic interviews. Residential addresses at baseline and at 12-year follow-up were geocoded. Corresponding census tract variables were used as indicators of neighborhood residential character.
Results: The regression analysis shows that, the more alcohol problems a man has, the more likely he is going to remain in, or migrate into, a disadvantaged neighborhood. This effect is only evident when a number of relevant confounding variables, including initial level of socioeconomic status, age, antisocial symptomatology, and spousal alcohol-use disorder status at baseline are controlled. Alcoholics in remission tended to live in neighborhoods whose residential characteristics were not distinguishable from those of nonalcoholics. Unremitted alcoholics, however, tended to stay in or migrate into more disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Conclusion: Alcoholic involvement has long-term negative effects on place of residence; involving an elevated likelihood of moving into or remaining in a disadvantaged neighborhood. Recovery from alcoholism is protective against downward social drift on the one hand, and is favorable to improvement in social conditions on the other.