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J Occup Med. 1988 Mar;30(3):246-51.

Unemployment and alcohol abuse: a review.

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Research Division, Massachusetts Department of Correction, Boston 02202.


Unemployment rates in alcohol treatment programs are strikingly high, yet the drinking behavior of unemployed populations has been neglected by alcohol researchers. Stress-based and socioenvironmental theories of alcoholism coupled with empirical research on the health and social costs of unemployment have suggested that the unemployed may be "at risk" for abusing alcohol. Specifically, the unemployed are said to abuse alcohol as a means of coping with financial stress triggered by job loss. Research on job loss and alcohol abuse has been beset by methodologic problems, which prevents drawing firm conclusions. For example, little attention has been paid to variables that intervene between job loss and alcohol abuse and that may actually account for the observed associations. Investigators have too often assumed that unemployment leads to alcohol abuse without considering the reverse. Controls for pre-job loss drinking behavior are virtually absent in studies to date. If future research does confirm that job loss leads to alcohol abuse, then alcohol policy implications may include: (1) the use of job loss as a diagnostic marker by alcohol treatment professionals, (2) the establishment of cooperative arrangements between those in the employment and training and alcohol fields, (3) a re-examination of the policy which ties health insurance coverage for alcohol treatment to current employment, and (4) the targeting of prevention and treatment resources to areas of high unemployment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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