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J Stud Alcohol. 2000 Mar;61(2):267-77.

Rural at-risk drinkers: correlates and one-year use of alcoholism treatment services.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, USA.



The purpose of this study was to identify a community sample of rural and urban at-risk drinkers, to compare them in terms of sociodemographics, access measures and severity of illness, and to study them prospectively to identify rural/urban differences in use of 12-month alcoholism treatment services.


A brief telephone screening interview of over 12,000 respondents in six southern states identified a sample of at-risk drinkers. A baseline interview was administered to 733 individuals (67% men, 50% rural residents) that obtained information on substance use and psychiatric disorders, psychosocial factors, social support, four dimensions of access to alcoholism treatment services and prior alcoholism service use. Interviews at 6 and 12 months obtained self-reports of subsequent receipt of alcoholism treatment services.


We identified modest differences between rural and urban at-risk drinkers. The rural sample was significantly less well-educated and reported significantly less affordability, accessibility and acceptability of some treatment services (p < .05). Rural at-risk drinkers also appeared to possess significantly greater illness characteristics, including more lifetime DSM-IV criteria for alcohol use disorders, more frequent recent alcohol disorders and more chronic medical problems (p < .05). The longitudinal sample comprised 579 participants, of whom 7% reported receiving some form of alcoholism treatment services in the year after the initial interview. In bivariate analysis, rural drinkers in the sample reported greater use of help for their drinking, more use of psychiatrists and more use of inpatient, outpatient and ER treatment settings than did their urban counterparts. However, significant independent predictors of 12-month alcoholism treatment use in multiple logistic regression were female gender (OR = 0.3), greater social support (OR = 2.2) and illness or severity characteristics including recent diagnosis of alcohol dependence (OR = 3.3), social consequences of drinking (OR = 1.7), concurrent medical problems (OR = 2.1) and prior treatment experience (OR = 4.4).


We found modest differences among rural and urban at-risk drinkers and some evidence of greater barriers to treatment and greater illness severity among rural inhabitants. Further research is needed to know whether community interventions with social networks and other interventions to improve social support may help bring at-risk drinkers into treatment in both urban and rural settings as well as provide other support for sobriety.

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