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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Minnesota Study Finds Recession-related Job Loss May Have Led to Psychological Distress and Increased Alcohol-related Problems, Especially among African Americans

A new study from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health finds individuals who lost their jobs during the 2008-2009 economic recession reported increased drunkenness and reported more alcohol use disorders — a result that was especially true for African Americans compared to Whites.

The study was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Recession-related job loss was also associated with an increase in psychological distress or depressive symptoms among people. In African Americans, such distress led to increased drunkenness. This suggests that distress is another pathway by which job loss affects alcohol use disorder among African Americans. The study also found higher levels of family social support lessened the effects of job loss on psychological distress for whites and Latinos —  but not for African Americans.

“Losing a job is stressful for everyone but we found this is especially true for African Americans,” said Professor Rhonda Jones-Webb, lead author of the study. “Oftentimes these individuals have less economic resources to cope with the added stress a job loss entails, which can lead to psychological distress and increased alcohol use.”

A previous study by the Alcohol Research Group found African Americans and Hispanics were more likely to report a job loss during the recession and that African Americans were more likely than whites to report alcohol-related problems. Dr. Jones-Webb’s study sought to identify the mechanisms by which job loss leads to alcohol-related problems and potential ways to target prevention and treatment efforts for those individuals who are most adversely affected by economic downturns.

Dr. Jones-Webb suggests that clinical staff provide greater attention to the role of social support as a protective factor in mitigating the effects of job loss on distress. For African Americans in particular, this may include identifying sources of social support outside of their family such as friends, neighbors, or community leaders. These results may have implications for preventing alcohol-related problems among high-risk groups.

“We hope the conceptual model we tested will spur additional research on the subject, provide a guide for clinicians working with the African American community as well as other racial and ethnic minority populations, and help policymakers develop policies to reduce future alcohol-related problems during economic downturns,” said Dr. Jones-Webb.