Findings from contextual studies have shown that living in both poor and affluent neighbourhoods increases the risk of drinking and drug use, but few studies have examined the connection between neighbourhood context and drinking from a gender perspective.
We investigated the association between gender, neighbourhood deprivation and weekly drinking behaviour (number of drinks) in a national sample of 93?457 Canadians using multilevel zero-inflated Poisson regression. A cross-level interaction between gender and neighbourhood deprivation was examined while controlling for other potential risk factors.
53% of Canadians reported having at least one drink in the last year (men=61%; women=46%). Among respondents who were drinkers, the average number of drinks per week was 6.4 with male drinkers reporting an average of 7.9 and female drinkers reporting an average of 4.6. Neighbourhood material deprivation was independently associated with weekly drinking. Findings from multilevel analysis showed a u-shaped curve between neighbourhood deprivation and drinking, but only for men. Men living in the poorest neighbourhoods drank more weekly (8.5 drinks) than men living in neighbourhoods of wealthy (4.5 drinks) and mid-range deprivation (3.7 drinks). No difference in drinking by neighbourhood material deprivation was observed among women.
Men, like women, experience gender-specific health difficulties (eg, alcohol-related problems) suggesting the need for a gendered focus on policies and services related to women's and men's health. The challenge for public health and primary care is to work together to target risk-taking behaviours among men through treatment, prevention and cultural/educational messages aimed at building healthy lifestyles.