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Neighborhood disorder, psychological distress, and heavy drinking


  • Hill, Terrence D.
  • Angel, Ronald J.


Studies show that residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods drink more heavily than residents of more affluent neighborhoods. However, explanations for this association are not well developed. Using data collected from a sample of low-income women with children from Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio, we explore the possibility that perceptions of neighborhood disorder encourage heavy drinking. Drawing on Conger's (Q. J. Stud. Alcohol 17 (1956) 296) tension reduction hypothesis, we propose that the stress of living in a neighborhood characterized by problems with drugs, crime, teen pregnancy, unemployment, idle youth, abandoned houses, and unresponsive police can be psychologically distressing and lead some people to consume alcohol as a means of palliative escape, to regulate feelings of anxiety and depression. In support of the tension reduction hypothesis, we find that the positive association between neighborhood disorder and heavy drinking is largely mediated by anxiety and depression.

Suggested Citation

  • Hill, Terrence D. & Angel, Ronald J., 2005. "Neighborhood disorder, psychological distress, and heavy drinking," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(5), pages 965-975, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:61:y:2005:i:5:p:965-975

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. LaVeist, Thomas A. & Wallace, John M., 2000. "Health risk and inequitable distribution of liquor stores in African American neighborhood," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 51(4), pages 613-617, August.
    2. Midanik, L.T. & Clark, W.B., 1994. "The demographic distribution of US drinking patterns in 1990: Description and trends from 1984," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 84(8), pages 1218-1222.
    3. Christopher Winship & Larry Radbill, 1994. "Sampling Weights and Regression Analysis," Sociological Methods & Research, , vol. 23(2), pages 230-257, November.
    4. John Mirowsky & John R. Reynolds, 2000. "Age, Depression, and Attrition in the National Survey of Families and Households," Sociological Methods & Research, , vol. 28(4), pages 476-504, May.
    5. Lee, Wei-Na & Callcott, Margaret F., 1994. "Billboard advertising: A comparison of vice products across ethnic groups," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 85-94, May.
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