Housing subsidy program shows opposite binge drinking patterns among teenage girls, boys

 While it is considered a serious public health problem by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, binge drinking is preventable. One way to prevent could be the access to more social services like a more effective housing program. A new study found that the effect of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Moving to Opportunity (MTO) for Fair Housing program, is different among adolescent girls and boys.

 The study was conducted by researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Community Health of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health; the Minnesota Population Center, University of Minnesota; and the San Francisco School of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California. It looked at families from five US cities namely Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.

Alcohol Poisoning The study found promising effects for adolescent girls struggling with binge drinking problems. According to the analysis published on September 6, the housing subsidy program reduced the binge drinking habit among adolescent girls. However, the same study also found out that binge drinking increased among adolescent boys.

 The study, which was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Alcohol abuse and Alcoholism, wanted to probe how the MTO program, which moves families from high-poverty neighborhood to communities with lower poverty incidence, will influence the binge drinking among adolescents.

 In 1992, the US Congress authorized the MTO to assist low-income families from high-poverty neighborhood to move to lower-poverty locations with the help of vouchers for rental assistance, intensive housing search, and counseling services.  The study looked at the differences in binge drinking among 2829 adolescents – 1950 were under the treatment and 879 were in the control group. Under the research treatment group were the subsidy families.

 The study found that the treatment-control binge drinking risk difference of having moved to a better neighborhood compared to not moving was -0.022 for girls and 0.032 for boys. The study looked at the drinking patterns of randomly selected children under 18 years old starting at the baseline which was from 1994 to 1998, interim (2001 to 2002), and the final evaluation from 2008 to 2010.

 Binge drinking: deadly pattern of alcohol abuse

 A few months ago, a research warned the public that binge drinking exposes young people to cardiovascular problems, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The escalating problem of binge drinking among young adults is undoubtedly causing concern due to the health risks that come with the habit.

 According to the CDC, binge drinking is a “deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use” and has affected 1 in 6 billion adults in the US. Binge drinking is a costly and common alcohol drinking pattern among men and women. The number of drinks that categorize alcohol drinking as binging is different for men and women. Binge drinking occurs when a man consumes at least five drinks and a woman consumes at least four drinks in about two hours.

 Today, excessive alcohol drinking is common among youth in the US, with approximately 4,300 underage dying due to alcohol abuse recorded yearly. Eleven percent of all alcohol consumed in the US are by young people aged between 12 to 20 years old. Significantly more than 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by young people is through binge drinking. The CDC pegged the economic cost of excessive alcohol drinking to $249 billion in 2010.

 Homelessness and alcoholism

 Substance abuse, including binge drinking, are just among the challenges faced by homeless young adults and their families. According to the January 2017 Point-in-Time count of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization, there are 533,742 homeless people in the US. From 2016 to 2017, the number of homeless increased by 0.7 percent.

 Homeless young people face a higher risk of health problems including alcoholism. Data from the National Center for Biotechnology Information showed that alcoholism is the most frequent single disorder found among homeless adults.

 More research needed

 Researchers admitted it remains unclear why the housing subsidy program influenced the binge drinking patterns among teenage girls and teenage boys differently.

 Dr. Theresa Osypuk, Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, opined that the MTO program may have influenced the pattern of binge drinking through social relationships which differs between girls and boys. She said adolescent girls cope with the stress factors of moving locations differently from boys. She also added that parenting relationships caused by residential mobility may influence the alcoholic use of boys and girls differently.

 While there is no research yet to reveal the mechanisms why and how adolescent boys and girls under the MTO differ, Osypuk stressed that more support from Housing Choice Voucher is needed for boys for it to be successful. The team of experts said there should be additional research to understand how to aid the prevention of alcohol use among adolescents while pushing for more services to help boys prevent alcohol use.