The Role of Alcohol use and Drinking Patterns in Socioeconomic Inequalities in Mortality

Socioeconomic status (SES) can be thought of as a measure of an individual's or family's social position relative to others that measures factors such as education, income, type of occupation and place of residence.

Research indicates that individuals with lower socioeconomic status (SES) are more likely to experience alcohol-related harm compared to individuals from higher SES.

The purpose of this study was to examine the role of alcohol use and drinking patterns in socioeconomic inequalities in mortality.

The systematic review, published int the Lancet Public Health, examined ten pieces of research that met the inclusion criteria.

From the analysis, the researchers found that:

  • Alcohol use explained up to 27% of the socioeconomic inequalities in mortality
  • The proportion of socioeconomic inequalities explained systematically differed by drinking pattern rather than quantity, with heavy episodic drinking having a potentially significant explanatory value.

The researchers acknowledged that the relationship between alcohol use, SES, and mortality risks is complex and a subject that merits further study. However, their paper highlights that it is not sufficient to examine the average quantity of alcohol consumed alone, but rather future studies should also take into account drinking behaviour.

They conclude:

"Even though addressing alcohol use and alcohol-attributable mortality remains a promising strategy to reduce health inequalities, a better understanding of the complex relationships between alcohol use, SES, and mortality risks has to be gained to effectively inform the development of population health policies."

Probst, C., Kilian, C., Sanchez, S., Lange, S., & Rehm, J. (2020). The role of alcohol use and drinking patterns in socioeconomic inequalities in mortality: a systematic review. The Lancet Public Health, 5(6), e324-e332.