Living Near A Bar Can Make You Drink More
November 4, 2012

Heavy Drinking Risk Higher Among Those Living Closer To Bars

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The closer you live to a bar, the greater the chance you could become a heavy drinker according to a new study published recently in the journal Addiction.

The study, conducted by a team of researchers in Finland, looked at more than 54,000 adults living in that country from 2000 through 2009, and discovered those who lived closer to bars or pubs were more likely to increase the average amount of alcohol they consume on a regular basis.

The researchers used GPS coordinates to determine the distance from each subject's home to the nearest drinking hole and discovered that for each kilometer (0.6 mile) closer a person lived to such a facility, the likelihood he or she would become a heavy drinker increased by 17%, according to Reuters Health reporter Amy Norton.

Lead researcher Jaana L. Halonen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health told Norton the study did not necessarily prove that living close to a bar would automatically turn a person into an alcoholic, and that other factors could explain the correlation.

In fact, she suggested it could be possible that the desire to drink more alcohol would lead a person to intentionally locate their home closer to a bar, in order to satisfy his or her cravings.

However, "she and her colleagues also looked at a subset of people who didn't move - the bars came closer to them. And the findings were similar among those individuals, too," Norton said.

Likewise, they explored the link between neighborhood poverty level (as lower income residents are more likely to drink heavily than wealthier ones, Halonen told Reuters), but their core findings remained unchanged.

Slightly over 9% of those who lived an average of 400 feet (0.12 km) from the closest bar were heavy drinkers, meaning they consumed 10 ounces of alcohol per week for men and seven ounces per week for women, Norton said. At a distance of 1.5 miles (2.4 km) away, that number dipped to 7.5%, the researchers discovered.

"Moving place of residence close to, or far from, a bar appears to be associated with a small corresponding increase or decrease in risky alcohol behavior," Halonen and colleagues from the University College London Medical School, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the University of Turku wrote in their study.

"The increased risk was modest," Norton added. "But at the population level, Halonen noted, even a modest association between access to bars and heavy drinking becomes 'notable.'"