Live Near a Bar? You May Become a Heavy Drinker

Close proximity to a bar is associated with risky drinking.

New research shows that the closer you live to a bar, the more at risk you are for heavy drinking. Heavy drinking is defined as more than ten ounces of alcohol a week for men and seven ounces a week for women. Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

When people are in search of a new place to live, they often make sure certain establishments are nearby: a grocery store, maybe a gym or a school, and the local watering hole, of course.

But new research shows that the closer you live to a bar, the greater chance you have becoming a risky drinker. (Perhaps that’s why DC has one of the highest binge-drinking rates in the country.)

The study, conducted in Finland, observed 54,778 participants between 2000 and 2009. Over the course of the study, researchers noted where each participant lived and their new locations if they moved. Income was also controlled for, since heavy drinkers are more likely to have lower pay.

They found that the likelihood of drinking heavily was 17 percent higher among those who lived less than 0.6 miles from a bar. “Heavy drinking” was defined as consuming two standard alcoholic drinks for men a day and one drink a day for women.

Of those who lived 400 feet from a bar, 9 percent were heavy drinkers. That’s compared with those who lived 1.5 miles away, of which 7.5 percent were heavy drinkers.

Still, the researchers noted that the results don’t necessarily mean that moving to a new place with a bar nearby turns you into an alcoholic. They were uncertain as to whether living near a bar raises one’s risk for heavy drinking, or whether heavy drinkers are just more likely to live close to bars. The researchers have more confidence it’s the former, since they found that during the study, bars were more likely to move into a neighborhood versus the participants moving closer to a bar.

The full study was published in the journal Addiction