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Within- and between-person associations of neighborhood poverty with alcohol use and consequences: A monthly study of young adults

While alcohol use in young adulthood may help with identity exploration, autonomy development, and the achievement of social goals, it is related to many negative outcomes. Previous literature shows neighborhood-level poverty and socioeconomic disadvantages may play a role in young adult’s excessive alcohol use. This study follows young adults monthly for two years to assess drinking and alcohol-related consequences among individuals living in neighborhoods of greater poverty.

Young adults for this study were recruited from Washington state who lived within 60 miles from the study offices in Seattle. Participants first completed a baseline assessment in person and then completed an online survey on the first day of the month for two years. Measures included neighborhood poverty, alcohol use and consequences, and demographics. Poverty was assessed by asking participants about their current residential address. Poverty levels were assessed using the American Community Survey. Alcohol use was assessed by asking about total drinks per week along with using the Brief Young Adult Alcohol Consequences Questionnaire.

The final study included 745 participants with an average of 58% attending a 4-year college during the study and living with parents an average of 32% of months during the two years. Average alcoholic drinks per week was 4.8 and consequences was 2.1. Results showed an increase in average neighborhood poverty was associated with a 23% increase in the count of typical drinks per week. This means that young adults on average consumed more alcohol when they were living in neighborhoods with higher levels of poverty. These findings show that young adults living in disadvantaged neighborhoods may benefit from added support surrounding alcohol misuse.

Take Away: The current study assesses drinking and alcohol-related consequences among young adults living in neighborhoods of greater poverty. Young adults were recruited from Washington state and completed a baseline assessment in person followed by an online survey on the first day of the month for two years. Measures included neighborhood poverty, alcohol use and consequences, and demographics. The final study included 745 participants and results showed young adults on average consumed more alcohol when they were living in neighborhoods with higher levels of poverty. These findings show that young adults living in disadvantaged neighborhoods may benefit from added support surrounding alcohol misuse.

Rhew, I. C., Duckworth, J. C., Hurvitz, P. M., & Lee, C. M. (2020). Within- and between-person associations of neighborhood poverty with alcohol use and consequences: A monthly study of young adults. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 212, 108068. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2020.108068

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