Page last updated: July 9, 2018
Educational differences in alcohol consumption and heavy drinking

Low socioeconomic status (SES) has been associated with lower alcohol consumption, but also higher rates of alcohol-related harm. To explain this contradictory relationship, researchers examined SES differences in drinking patterns from an age-period-cohort (APC) perspective.

The research used data are from seven waves of the US National Alcohol Surveys from 1979 to 2010. Educational attainment was used as a proxy for SES. Past-year alcohol volume was calculated from frequency and usual quantity Past-year frequency of heavy episodic drinking was labelled as total days of 5+ drinks.

Significant APC effects by education were found, but the direction varied by alcohol measure. Education and total volume were positively associated across APC. Cross-over effects for age occurred with a positive education-heavy drinking relationship in young adulthood and negative relationship in mid-adulthood. Cohortby- education effects showed greater heavy drinking among less educated women in 1956-60 cohort and more educated men and women in younger cohorts (post-1976).

The researchers found that higher SES is consistently associated with total volume across age, period, and cohort, but less consistently with heavy drinking. While there are currently significant intervention efforts to reduce heavy drinking in young adulthood, the researchers suggests the need for age-specific strategies targeting lower-SES groups in mid-adulthood and cohort-specific strategies for lower-SES women in the baby boomer cohort and higher-SES men and women in younger birth cohorts.

Source: Educational differences in alcohol consumption and heavy drinking: An age-periodcohort perspective. Lui CK, Kerr WC, Mulia N, Ye Y. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2018 Mar 7;186:36-43.

doi: 10.1016/j. drugalcdep.2017.12.046
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