'Duh' Study of the Week: Living Near Bars Increases Drinking

Finnish vodka
Finnish vodka
Flickr/acidpix

As you wait in line to cast your ballot, here's some food for thought about your tax dollars at work. Oh wait, make that Finnish tax dollars. Still, something to keep in mind as you consider which candidate might be more likely to fund silly studies.

Researchers in Finland have discovered that living near a bar encourages people to drink more, Reuters reports. The scientists tracked nearly 55,000 adults for seven years, and found that those who moved closer to bars were somewhat more likely to increase their drinking.

When a person moved about half a mile closer to a bar, their odds of becoming a heavy drinker rose 17 percent. (A Finnish "heavy drinker" was defined as more than 10 ounces a week for men and about seven ounces a week for women, of distilled alcohol. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider heavy drinking to be an average of more than two 1.5-ounce drinks a day for men and one a day for women.)

However, the correlation doesn't prove that mere distance from a bar turns people into alcohol abusers, according to the researchers.

"Factors other than proximity are also likely to explain the observed association," lead researcher Jaana L. Halonen, of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Kuopio, told Reuters. You don't say.

To say that the Finns are a hard-drinking people would be akin to saying saunas are a little bit warm or that Laplanders are rather fond of reindeer. There is nary a country in the world so completely soused in vodka and melancholy. According to a 2006 study, alcohol is the No. 1 cause of death in men, and No. 2 in women, in the chill Scandinavian land.

One possible alternative explanation for the study's findings is that drinkers choose to live near bars. But Halonen and her colleagues looked at a subset of people who didn't move -- but had bars move into their neighborhoods. Those people started drinking more too, she said.

The researchers also accounted for some other factors, like the neighborhood poverty level. Still, distance from a bar remained tied to the odds of becoming a heavy drinker.

The findings were reported in the journal Addiction.

Next study: Will easy access to a bar near one's polling place increase one's chances of drinking heavily on election night?

In somewhat related news:

How Drunk Would You Be If You Actually Followed the Presidential Debate Drinking Game?


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