Associations Between Neighborhood Alcohol Availability and Young Adolescent Alcohol Use

Published in: Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 2015

Posted on RAND.org on October 20, 2015

by Regina A. Shih, Leslie Mullins, Brett Ewing, Lisa Kraus, Joan S. Tucker, Eric R. Pedersen, Jeremy N. V. Miles, Elizabeth J. D'Amico

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We investigated the association between alcohol outlet density and adolescent alcohol use, including whether this association differed by sociodemographic characteristics. We geocoded and mapped active license data from the year 2011 to calculate the number of outlets within multiple circular buffers of varying sizes (density), centered at households of adolescents ages 10–16 (n = 2,724). We examined 2 indicators of alcohol use: any lifetime use, but not in past month, and any past month heavy use. Cross-sectional hierarchal multivariate regression analyses were used to examine associations between alcohol outlet density and alcohol use, including the potential moderating effect of age, gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Analyses controlled for neighborhood-level socioeconomic status and accounted for census tract-level clustering. A higher number of on- and off-premise outlets within 0.10, 0.25, and 0.50 miles around the respondents' homes was associated with higher odds of being a heavy drinker. In addition, the number of on-premise outlets within the 0.25-mile radius was associated with greater odds of lifetime drinking. For on-premise outlets where minors were not allowed (clubs/bars), we observed a positive and significant association between clubs/bars within the 0.25-mile buffer zone and higher odds of both lifetime and heavy drinking. Findings suggest that youth who are exposed to higher densities of on-premise alcohol outlets are at risk for both lifetime use and recent heavy use. It is critical to advocate for stricter laws limiting the number of alcohol outlets in neighborhoods, including clubs/bars where minors are restricted, and putting into place more stringent enforcement of age identification requirements to limit distribution of alcohol to minors.

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