Parents drink more alcohol when there are more bars, restaurants in the neighborhood

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Your decision to drink alcohol is a personal decision. Still, new research from The Ohio State University suggests your decision to drink could be swayed if you live near bars or restaurants. Researchers report alcohol habits were highest among the parents of young children and this correlated with the number of bars and restaurants near work, shopping areas, and where kids go to school.

“What we found suggests that parents may choose where they shop based on opportunities to engage in other activities, including drinking. They may also be cued to drink when they go out shopping or when they finish work by the convenience of nearby bars and restaurants,” says study co-author Bridget Freisthler, professor of social work at The Ohio State University in a university release.

“If you have a tough day at work, you may stop at the nearby bar for a drink before going home. If you’re out shopping with your kids, you might stop for dinner at the chain restaurant next door that serves alcohol,” she adds.

Parents drank more on a yearly basis when they lived close to bars and alcohol-serving restuarants

These findings are based on survey findings from 1,599 people living in 30 cities in California in 2015. All participants had at least one young child, 10 years or younger, living with them at least half the time. The survey answers allowed researchers to gauge how frequently each parent was drinking (number of days annually), and the total volume of alcohol consumed annually.

All survey-takers gave researchers their address, their usual grocery stores, other frequently visited stores (pharmacies, malls, etc.), their child’s school, and their place of employment. The information helped the study authors calculate the density of alcohol outlets (bars, restaurants) near the areas parents were spending most of their time in.

The results confirmed what earlier studies have suggested: Parents who live in neighborhoods with more bars and restaurants drank more frequently and consumed larger quantities of alcohol. In addition, while parents occasionally visiting areas (shops, schools, jobs) with lots of nearby bars and restaurants didn’t drink more frequently than others did , they drank more alcohol yearly.

“We can’t tell how they spread out their drinking over the course of the year, but it is concerning that parents who frequent these areas with bars and restaurants are indeed consuming more alcohol,” Prof. Freisthler explains.

Proximity to bars may influence the risk of drunk driving

It’s worth noting that the data didn’t tell researchers if the parents’ children were actually with them while they were drinking. “But that’s something to pay attention to,” Prof. Freisthler comments. “Based on where parents reported going, these were places where they could bundle a lot of errands together at one time and could likely have their kids with them. They could go shopping and then go to a chain restaurant that serves alcohol, but is still appropriate to bring children, unlike a bar or pub. It gives parents opportunities to drink.”

Prof. Freisthler clarifies she isn’t saying parents shouldn’t occasionally have a beer or glass of wine with dinner at a restaurant with their child. But it does become a problem when one beer turns into three or four, and mom or dad need to drive home.

The study is available to read in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.