Is the duration of poverty and unemployment a risk factor for heavy drinking?

Soc Sci Med. 2008 Sep;67(6):947-55. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.05.019. Epub 2008 Jun 21.


Research on the influence of socioeconomic status (SES) on heavy drinking of alcohol has provided contradictory findings. A limitation of the literature is that studies have primarily measured SES at one point in time. Inspired by the life course perspective and sociological research on chronic stress, this study uses data from the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979-1992 wave) to examine whether the duration of poverty and unemployment is a risk factor for heavy drinking. Results from logistic and ordinary least squares regression analyses demonstrate that longer durations of poverty and involuntary unemployment across a span of 13 years significantly predict being a heavy drinker and more frequent heavy drinking at ages 27-35 years. These effects are independent of gender, age, race/ethnicity, marital status, prior heavy drinking, and present SES. Overall, this study contributes to the literature that histories of poverty and involuntary unemployment have lasting effects on heavy drinking. More studies should use longitudinal data to explore the temporal dimension of SES.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States