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PLoS One. 2019 Feb 4;14(2):e0209442. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0209442. eCollection 2019.

Associations between socio-economic factors and alcohol consumption: A population survey of adults in England.

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Research Department of Behavioural Science and Health, University College London, London, England.
Institute of Health & Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
ScHARR, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, England.
Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London, London, England.



To gain a better understanding of the complex relationships of different measures of social position, educational level and income with alcohol consumption in England.


Between March 2014 and April 2018 data were collected on n = 57,807 alcohol drinkers in England taking part in the Alcohol Toolkit Study (ATS). Respondents completed the AUDIT-C measure of frequency of alcohol consumption, amount consumed on a typical day and binge drinking frequency. The first two questions were used to derive a secondary measure of quantity: average weekly unit consumption. Socio-economic factors measured were: social-grade (based on occupation), employment status, educational qualifications, home and car ownership and income. Models were constructed using ridge regression to assess the contribution of each predictor taking account of high collinearity. Models were adjusted for age, gender and ethnicity.


The strongest predictor of frequency of alcohol consumption was social-grade. Those in the two lowest occupational categories of social grade (e.g. semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers, and unemployed, pensioners, casual workers) has fewer drinking occasions than those in professional-managerial occupations (β = -0.29, 95%CI -0.34 to -0.25; β = -0.31, 95%CI -0.33 to -0.29). The strongest predictor of consumed volume and binge drinking frequency was lower educational attainment: those whose highest qualification was an A-level (i.e. college/high school qualification) drank substantially more on a typical day (β = 0.28, 95%CI 0.25 to 0.31) and had a higher weekly unit intake (β = 3.55, 95%CI 3.04 to 4.05) than those with a university qualification. They also reported a higher frequency of binge drinking (β = 0.11, 95%CI 0.09 to 0.14). Housing tenure was a strong predictor of all drinking outcomes, while employment status and car ownership were the weakest predictors of most outcomes.


Social-grade and educational attainment appear to be the strongest socioeconomic predictors of alcohol consumption indices in England, followed closely by housing tenure. Employment status and car ownership have the lowest predictive power.

Conflict of interest statement

RW undertakes consultancy and research for and receives travel funds and hospitality from manufacturers of smoking cessation medications. RW salary is funded by Cancer Research UK. SM receives support from Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)’s School for Public Health Research (SPHR). EB and JB have received unrestricted research funding from Pfizer. PM’s research is funded by a variety of governmental funding agencies including UKRI and NIHR.

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