Heavy drinking during periods of high unemployment: 15-Year trend study of the role of race/ethnicity

Celia C. Lo, Tyrone Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study conceptualized high unemployment rate as a stressor deriving from the social structure. It tracked American adults' heavy drinking rates 1997-2011, intending to examine (1) whether heavy drinking escalates with rising unemployment, and (2) whether racial minorities, who feel economic downturns more than the majority, engage in heavy drinking at a higher level than Whites in times of high unemployment. Methods: Research questions were answered using data from the Combined National Health Interview Survey. The present final sample included only respondents classified as heavy drinkers: those reporting that, on days (in the preceding year) on which they had consumed alcohol, they had regularly had at least 5 drinks. Results: The study, which considered individual-level social structural factors, overall found rising unemployment rate to be associated with high measures for heavy-drinking frequency but low measures for heavy-drinking quantity. It did not find race to moderate the unemployment-heavy-drinking relationship, although some empirical evidence has shown racial minorities to be relatively more responsive to fluctuating unemployment inherent in the economic cycle. Conclusions: Our results in general call for further research on roles of gender and race in heavy drinking, especially where Black females are concerned. Blacks' greater heavy-drinking frequency and greater heavy-drinking quantity (versus Whites) observed in this study may shed light on persistent racial disparities in Americans' health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-390
Number of pages8
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2013


  • Economic conditions
  • Heavy drinking
  • Racial/ethnic minorities
  • Trend study


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