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Poor people are the most at risk from local access to alcohol

Posted March 30, 2018

Alcohol is expensive. If you want to organize a big party, alcoholic beverages are going to eat a big chuck of your budget. Of course, unless you like partying sober – that helps you save a lot of money. However, it is not to say that alcohol is only for rich people. In fact, scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow found that the poorest people are the most affected by the availability of alcohol in their area.

Bottles of luxurious alcohol are expensive, but poor people drink more, but cheaper beverages. Image credit: Chris huh via Wikimedia

Many countries in the world are putting huge efforts to reduce the alcohol consumption. It is a big problem, but solutions are minimal. However, some studies show that growing economy naturally reduces alcohol consumption as the middle class becomes stronger. Meanwhile people with lower income levels are the ones affected by the alcohol availability the most. In other words, those people who earn more are less likely to drink too much just because alcohol is available in their area. Meanwhile the number of drinking poor people increases in line with the availability of alcohol in their neighbourhood.

Now, why is it like that? Scientists say that it could be because poorer people spend more time in their local area. They are more dependent on it. They cannot travel, some of them don’t even have jobs. And so they are stuck with what is available in their local area, which is oftentimes nothing else but drinking.

Scientists combined the data on the density of alcohol outlets in town and cities across Scotland with data from a national health survey of more than 28,000 people. Then they compared alcohol consumption to income levels and found that poor people are more vulnerable to availability of alcohol in their area. Scientists say that this problem needs to be addressed, because campaigns that focus exclusively on consumer behaviour are not working.

Reducing the availability of alcohol is the key to solving this problem. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to see that giving these people something else to do would bring an improvement as well. Dr Niamh Shortt, one of the authors of the study, said: “Reducing alcohol-related harm is a key public health priority and Scotland is leading the way with the implementation of a Minimum Unit Price. There is however more to be done”. While alcohol is already expensive, increasing its price is unlikely to help – there needs to be a more systematic approach to this issue.

Maybe, because these problems are local, communities should try solving them? Or maybe campaigns should not focus on alcohol consumption directly, but instead pay more attention to education and local economic development? Scientists and policy makers are yet to answer these questions.


Source: University of Edinburgh

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