Where you live might influence how much you drink, but how many bars or liquor stores are nearby may not be a key factor, according to a new University of Washington study.
"Is there something about the neighborhood itself that can lead to problems?" asked Isaac Rhew, a research assistant professor in the UW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science.
Since earlier studies have linked poverty to alcohol use, University of Washington researchers looked at additional factors such as crime, drug dealing, and graffiti.
Researchers called those quality of life issues "disorganization" and noted that not all poor neighborhoods are inundated with those challenges.
Using geographic information and data from a long-term study of Seattle-area residents, researchers found that people who live in neighborhoods characterized by poverty and disorganization drank twice as much in a typical week as those in other neighborhoods. Binge drinking happened about four times more frequently.
"When you find that this connection may be even more important than the location of bars and liquor stores, then it's the characteristics of a neighborhood that we want to pay attention to," said study co-author Rick Kosterman.
The study suggests that efforts to clean up and provide services to those neighborhoods might also reduce problem drinking.
The UW study was published in the Journal of Urban Health.