Economic loss and alcohol consumption and problems during the 2008 to 2009 U.S. recession

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2014 Apr;38(4):1026-34. doi: 10.1111/acer.12301. Epub 2013 Nov 20.


Background: There is some evidence that individual-level job loss can lead to greater alcohol consumption and problems. While other forms of economic loss were common during the recent recession, these are rarely investigated in studies of macroeconomic decline. This study examined the relationship between types of economic loss in the 2008 to 2009 recession and alcohol outcomes, and whether this varied by gender and age.

Methods: Data are from the 2009 to 2010 U.S. National Alcohol Survey (N = 5,382). We used multivariable regression to estimate associations between economic loss and alcohol volume, monthly drunkenness, negative drinking consequences, and alcohol dependence in the overall sample and within gender and age groups (18 to 29, 30 to 49, 50+), controlling for demographic and alcohol history covariates.

Results: In the overall sample, severe economic loss (job or housing loss) was positively associated with negative drinking consequences, alcohol dependence, and (marginally) drunkenness, whereas moderate loss (loss of retirement savings, reduced work hours/wages, or trouble paying the rent/mortgage) was unassociated with alcohol outcomes. Important gender and age differences were observed. Women reporting retirement loss, reduced hours/wages, and job loss consumed 41 to 70% more alcohol than women unaffected by the recession, and men who experienced job loss and housing problems had increased risk for drunkenness, drinking consequences, and dependence. Middle-aged Americans affected by partial or complete job loss and housing problems also had greater risk of drunkenness and alcohol-related problems, and older adults who lost retirement savings drank 42% more alcohol than their peers unaffected by the recession. With the exception of negative drinking consequences, young adult alcohol outcomes were largely unrelated to recessionary loss.

Conclusions: This study highlights the adverse effects of recession-induced economic losses on alcohol use and problems in demographic subgroups. As men and middle-aged Americans were at risk for multiple, adverse alcohol outcomes, these groups may warrant special alcohol screening and intervention efforts in future macroeconomic crises.

Keywords: Alcohol Problems; Gender; Heavy Drinking; Recession; Unemployment.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / economics*
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / trends*
  • Economic Recession / trends*
  • Employment / economics*
  • Employment / trends*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult