The concept of poverty is a multi-faceted one. It’s not strictly tied to a lack of resources or material possessions — it can also be a deeply ingrained mentality among individuals who are exposed to a lower quality of life, a lack of access to essential amenities, or the result of income inequality in a community. Research on the society’s poor also suggest that poverty has a direct correlation with alcohol abuse and can often lead to more severe consequences on the already impoverished.
The Susceptibility of the Impoverished
According to researchers, US states that tend to rank highly in crime, poverty, and lack of education are more susceptible to the problems of addiction or substance use disorders that affect a person’s mental and psychological well-being.
Even with the presence of reliable rehab centers in Alabama and other areas that experience high poverty incidence rates, not all individuals dealing with substance use disorders seek treatment for alcohol abuse and other conditions. This isn’t to say that the poorest in society tend to drink more—in fact, they may even drink less than individuals who don’t fall within the category of poverty. What puts them more at risk of suffering from alcoholism is their socioeconomic condition, which in turn leaves them vulnerable to the worst consequences of alcoholism.
One significant problem that individuals who experience poverty have to go through is a reduced resilience to combat health problems that are associated with heavy drinking. Because it’s common for the poorest in society to have weakened immune systems, the combined effect of alcohol misuse and the manifestation of chronic diseases can lead to serious illness, and even death.
There’s also the financial factor of problematic drinking. Households with low to middle income have more trouble controlling their spending if the bulk of the family’s budget goes to buying alcohol. This behavior can be caused by local peer pressure or by a dependency on the substance itself.
The Vicious Cycle of Alcoholism and Poverty
Drinking by itself isn’t the problem, but in poor societies that are already suffering from scarce resources, alcohol can be a leading risk factor for death and disability. It is when these precious resources aren’t used for improving socioeconomic conditions that the cycle becomes harder to break.
There’s also the stigma of addiction that prevents many afflicted individuals from getting the help needed to break this cycle. The alcohol use disorder and accompanying poverty may have been a recurring problem of the family across generations, but help is not sought due to the fear of being made social outcasts if the addiction were made known to friends, family, and neighbors.
In such cases, treating the condition of poverty is unlikely to be effective if a full-blown addiction has not yet been addressed. The family unit may require group counseling first so everyone can play their part in preventing destructive behavior while also strengthening personal bonds. Overcoming the tethers of addiction can provide more freedom for each member of the family to engage in productive habits and pursuits, such as attaining a higher level of education and opting for a healthier lifestyle.
Individuals struggling with alcohol addiction are also prone to getting in trouble with the law. Theft, robbery, violence, rape, and destruction of private or public property are all too common occurences among those who drink heavily. Not only can these drain the individual’s financial resources due to the lawsuits and payment obligations that may come as a consequence of these actions, these can also hinder the individual’s chances of getting stable employment. As such, the cycle of alcoholism and poverty continues.
Comparisons with Higher Income Earners
The correlation between heavy drinking and income is demonstrated in at least one study. Even though more individuals from groups that earn more and have attained a higher level of education were observed to consume alcohol, heavy drinking was more prevalent among the low income groups. The same study also shows that heavy drinking is not directly related to the individuals’ region of the residence, yet it focuses on the observable differences between the frequency and quantity of alcohol consumed by different income groups.
Alcohol Does More Harm Among the Poor
Eating habits, smoking, and cultural norms can also have an impact on the poverty level of a community or specific individual, but the relationship with alcohol consistently revealed an increased vulnerability to harm among the poorest in society. Heavier drinking is especially harmful to those who have a manual occupation, have pre-existing health conditions, and lack adequate food and shelter.
If our goal is to eradicate poverty once and for all, it’s important to address the problems that contribute to the cycle, which includes alcoholism. Alcohol use disorder is already a complex condition to begin with, but through intervention, treatment, and rehabilitation, it is possible to get more people on the road to recovery and begin a life that offers more opportunities to move up, thrive, and be healthy.