The impact of relative residence times on the distribution of heavy drinkers in highly distinct environments
Alcohol consumption is a function of social dynamics, environmental contexts, individuals' preferences and family history. Empirical surveys have focused primarily on identification of risk factors for high-level drinking but have done little to clarify the underlying mechanisms at work. Also, there have been few attempts to apply nonlinear dynamics to the study of these mechanisms and processes at the population level. A simple framework where drinking is modeled as a socially contagious process in low- and high-risk connected environments is introduced. Individuals are classified as light, moderate (assumed mobile), and heavy drinkers. Moderate drinkers provide the link between both environments, that is, they are assumed to be the only individuals drinking in both settings. The focus here is on the effect of moderate drinkers, measured by the proportion of their time spent in "low-" versus "high-" risk drinking environments, on the distribution of drinkers. A simple model within our contact framework predicts that if the relative residence times of moderate drinkers are distributed randomly between low- and high-risk environments then the proportion of heavy drinkers is likely to be higher than expected. However, the full story even in a highly simplified setting is not so simple because "strong" local social mixing tends to increase high-risk drinking on its own. High levels of social interaction between light and moderate drinkers in low-risk environments can diminish the importance of the distribution of relative drinking times on the prevalence of heavy drinking.
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