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Losing Job or Home in Recession Linked to Increased Risk of Problem Drinking

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People who lost their job or home in the recession of 2008-2009 had higher rates of problem drinking, a new study concludes. Those at highest risk were in their 30s and 40s. Men were more likely than women to be affected.

The study found people who lost a job or housing during the recession were three times more likely to report symptoms of alcohol dependence, or to admit to at least two negative drinking consequences, such as getting into fights or accidents, suffering health problems or being arrested.

The study included almost 5,400 adults, HealthDay reports. While the study does not prove that the recession led to people’s problem drinking, lead researcher Nina Mulia of the Alcohol Research Group noted that people drink to relax or to cope with stress and tension. “And so it wouldn’t be surprising if people who are dealing with severe stress — who were actually affected by job or housing loss — would turn to alcohol.”

Men affected by the recession were more likely than those who didn’t lose a job or housing to get drunk at least once a month. Mulia noted some younger adults who lost a job or housing moved back in with their families, so they received some support. In contrast, middle-aged adults often have their own families to support, as well as larger expenses.

The study will appear in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

“When people lose jobs or housing, or have their hours/salaries cut, visiting the doctor might not be a priority, especially if they have lost their health insurance,” Mulia said in a news release. “So we need ways to reach the people who have been most impacted by economic loss and link them with alcohol screening and brief interventions, as well as other health education and prevention efforts.  This might mean that health programs should partner with unemployment offices, housing and social services, etc.”

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