For some people, social gatherings can be a time of imbibe whereas for some others, that may be the time to start overdrinking. But how does your neighborhood and your social network affect your drinking habits?
Along with colleagues at RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, Indiana University researcher Hank Green explored how neighborhood and social factors are related to adult alcohol abuse. He and his co-authors found that both factors play a role in how much a person drinks, information that can help us better understand adult drinking in adults.
The study was also published in the journal Health and Place, published in Science Direct and PubMed.
Their partners said that the older people living in cohesive communities where people got along, helped and cared for each other were less likely to drink at all than those living in less affluent areas.
Green also said that living in a more cohesive environment can affect social norms and prevent behavior in such a way that excessive drinking is not possible, even if the opportunity to drink arises arises.
Researchers also found that, for those living in areas where they felt safe and orderly, and with a highly connected social network, the chances of social drinking were increasing, and heavy drinking could result from those drinking habits, no matter how mixed they were.
However, research has also found that those neighbourhoods and networks also limit how often a person drinks, perhaps through social control procedures such as friends and neighbours confronting or commenting on someone’s drinking, etc.
Green who is the associate professor at the IU School of Public Health Bloomington said that they also found that binge drinking was more likely among adults who lived in orderly neighbourhoods and who had denser social networks, but they reported lower neighbourhood cohesion.
In the neighbourhoods ranked by the study participants as disordered, unsafe, and also lacking the cohesion, the neighbourhood factors also lose their overall impact. According to the study the social networks tend to take over the role of social control.
Researchers utilized the online surveys from adults ages 30-80 drawn randomly from the RAND American Life Panel. The main predictor variables were neighbourhood; neighbourhood order; and social network density. Associations of these measures with past-month binge drinking were examined, controlling for the demographic characteristics.
Green said the study could help inform interventions such as behavioral therapy because those approaches are already focused on identifying people and places that cause alcohol abuse and addressing these behavioral factors.
Indirectly, Green said, the study suggests that such interventions could also target people and areas that interfere with binge drinking or facilitate binge drinking and better drinking choices. Such interventions can also look at the broader definition of “location” that extends beyond a specific area to consider how larger areas like neighborhoods can affect drinking.
Green said that because neighborhoods and social networks work simultaneously to affect the chances of binge drinking and the frequency of binge drinking, binge drinking interventions should incorporate both factors to make them more effective.