Easing the pain of an economic downturn: macroeconomic conditions and excessive alcohol consumption

Health Econ. 2012 Nov;21(11):1318-35. doi: 10.1002/hec.1788. Epub 2011 Sep 12.


Individuals can react to financial stress in a variety of ways, such as reducing discretionary spending or engaging in risky behaviors. This article investigates the effect of changing macroeconomic conditions (measured by the unemployment rate in the state of residence) on one type of risky behavior: excessive alcohol consumption. Using unique and recent panel data from waves 1 and 2 of the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) and estimating fixed-effects models, we find that changes in the unemployment rate are positively related to changes in binge drinking, alcohol-involved driving, and alcohol abuse and/or dependence. Some differences are present among demographic groups, primarily in the magnitude of the estimated effects. These results contradict previous studies and suggest that problematic drinking may be an indirect and unfortunate consequence of an economic downturn.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Economic Recession*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Unemployment*
  • United States / epidemiology