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BMC Public Health. 2014 Sep 8;14:928. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-928.

Do changes in social and economic factors lead to changes in drinking behavior in young adults? Findings from three waves of a population based panel study.

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Department of Public Health, University of Otago, PO Box 7343, Wellington, New Zealand.



Social and economic measures in early childhood or adolescence appear to be associated with drinking behavior in young adulthood. Yet, there has been little investigation to what extent drinking behavior of young adults changes within young adulthood when they experience changes in social and economic measures in this significant period of their life.


The impact of changes in living arrangement, education/employment, income, and deprivation on changes in average weekly alcohol units of consumption and frequency of hazardous drinking sessions per month in young adults was investigated. In total, 1,260 respondents of the New Zealand longitudinal Survey of Family, Income and Employment (SoFIE) aged 18-24 years at baseline were included.


Young adults who moved from a family household into a single household experienced an increase of 2.32 (95% CI 1.02 to 3.63) standard drinks per week, whereas those young adults who became parents experienced a reduction in both average weekly units of alcohol (β = -3.84, 95% CI -5.44 to -2.23) and in the frequency of hazardous drinking sessions per month (β = -1.17, 95% CI -1.76 to -0.57). A one unit increase in individual deprivation in young adulthood was associated with a 0.48 (95% CI 0.10 to 0.86) unit increase in average alcohol consumption and a modest increase in the frequency of hazardous drinking sessions (β = 0.25, 95% CI 0.11 to 0.39).


This analysis suggests that changes in living arrangement and individual deprivation are associated with changes in young adult's drinking behaviors. Alcohol harm-minimization interventions therefore need to take into account the social and economic context of young people's lives to be effective.

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