Is your wallet as empty as that bottle of hooch rolling across the kitchen floor? A new study says that you’re not broke because you drink too much. It’s the other way around. You actually drink too much because you’re broke.

Research from psychologists at the University of Minnesota shows that people’s drinking habits are affected by their income, and it’s not about how much booze you can afford.

While people who make more money are more likely to drink than people in lower wage brackets, they also tend to drink more moderately. People who make less money are more varied in their drinking habits, from not consuming alcohol at all to heavy drinking and binge drinking.

For this study, researchers interviewed 672 pairs of twins, some fraternal, some identical, over a decade. All of the siblings shared the same upbringing. Since the identical twins have the same DNA, this gave the researchers the ability to measure the impact of genetics (nature) vs. environment (nurture) on drinking habits.

“Our study’s key finding is that genetic and environmental effects on the amount of alcohol use are not constant across all individuals in the population, but instead vary by the socioeconomic context,” said lead researcher Nayla Hamdi of the University of Minnesota.

That means that genetics has a larger impact on the drinking habits of lower income people, while those who made more money were more likely to be influenced by their environment. The implication being that the added stress of having less money could make people more vulnerable to genetic susceptibilities. People with more wealth have an easier time overcoming a pre-disposition to heavier drinking.

Matt McGue, Psychology Professor at the University of Minnesota explains that higher income people are likely “exposed to cultural factors – roughly equated to shared environmental influence – that encourage drinking but only in moderation. Perhaps norms surrounding drinking are more uniform in a high- as compared to low socioeconomic status context.”

Perhaps that explains why many of the professions on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association’s list of jobs most likely to lead to addiction tend to be high stress and lower paying.

Top 10 Most Addiction-Prone Careers

    1. Food preparation and serving
    2. Construction
    3. Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media
    4. Sales
    5. Installation, maintenance, and repair
    6. Farming, Fishing and Forestry
    7. Transportation and Material-Moving
    8. Cleaning and Maintenance
    9. Personal Care and Service
    10. Office and Administrative Support

Canadians do our share of drinking. A report from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) found that North Americans in general, and Canadians in particular drink more than 50 per cent above the global average amount of alcohol, and show more harmful binge drinking behaviour than most countries.

We have long cold winters and haven’t seen real income gains in a number of years. So I guess we all need to make more money. Here’s something for the best of both worlds: High-paying jobs for people who like to drink (moderately).


Peter Harris
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