Alcohol consumption

Here’s how the density of bars and restaurants determines a person’s alcohol consumption

There was a time when drinking alcohol was considered morally irresponsible behavior. But these days it’s become as common as stopping for a cup of coffee. Previous research has shown that people drink more frequently and consume greater amounts of alcohol when there are more bars and restaurants in the neighborhoods where they live. But a recent study has added another angle to it.

The study, which focused on parents of young children, suggested that it was not just where people lived that was important, but also where they spent their time. The results of the study have been published in the journal “Drug and Alcohol Dependence”. The results showed that alcohol consumption was linked to the number of bars and restaurants near where parents shopped, where they worked and where their children went to school.

“What we found suggests that parents may choose where they shop based on opportunities to engage in other activities, including drinking alcohol. They may also be enticed to drink when they go out shopping or when they finish work by the convenience of nearby bars and restaurants,” said study co-author and social work professor Bridget Freisthler. at Ohio State University.

“If you have a hard day at work, you can stop by the nearby bar for a drink before heading home. If you’re shopping with your kids, you can stop for dinner at the chain restaurant next door that serves alcohol.

Freisthler conducted the study with Uwe Wernekinck, a doctoral candidate in social work at Ohio State. The study involved 1,599 people in 30 California cities, who participated in a telephone or online survey. All participants were parents or guardians with at least one child aged 10 or younger who lived with them at least half the time.

Participants answered questions that allowed researchers to calculate how often they drank alcohol (number of days in a year) and the total volume of alcohol they drank in a year. Data was collected before COVID-19, in 2015. All participants indicated where they lived, the grocery stores where they most often shopped, another store where they often shopped (such as a big box or pharmacy), the child’s school or kindergarten and the parents’ workplace.

The researchers then calculated the density of alcohol outlets — bars and restaurants where alcohol was consumed on-site — near these sites where people hung out. (The researchers called these sites “destination nodes.”)

The results confirmed other studies suggesting that parents living in neighborhoods with higher bar and restaurant densities drank more days and drank more alcohol in the past year than those living in areas with fewer such outlets. Parents who visited destination nodes with higher densities of bars and restaurants serving alcohol did not drink more frequently than others, but reported drinking more total alcohol over the course of a year than the others. “We can’t say how they distribute their alcohol consumption over the year, but it’s concerning that parents who frequent these areas with bars and restaurants actually consume more alcohol,” Freisthler said.

Freisthler said the data does not show whether parents had children with them when they drank alcohol. “But it’s something to be careful about,” she said. “According to the places the parents said they went, these were places where they could do a lot of shopping at the same time and where they could probably have their children with them. They might go shopping and then go to a chain restaurant that serves alcohol, but it’s still okay to bring kids, unlike a bar or pub. This gives parents the opportunity to drink.

The problem wasn’t that parents could have the occasional beer or wine at a restaurant with their kids in attendance, Freisthler said. But studies, including this one, have shown that people drink more alcohol when there are more places that serve it nearby. “Are there additional risks related to the way people raise their children, such as drunk driving? That’s what we should be worried about,” she said.

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