Study: When a state becomes more liberal drinking increases

Jan. 31, 2014 at 9:25 PM
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PITTSBURGH, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- When a U.S. state becomes more liberal politically, its consumption of beer and spirits rises, researchers say.

Pavel A. Yakovleva and Walter P. Guessforda, both of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, said they estimated the relationship between political ideology and the demand for beer, wine and spirits using a longitudinal panel of all 50 U.S. states from 1952 to 2010.

Although prior research had linked political ideology and health behavior, several sociological studies since 2002 suggest ideological beliefs can establish a particular set of acceptable behaviors, including health-related decisions such as alcohol consumption.

One study proposed collectivities -- kinship, work, religious or political groups -- can influence individual health lifestyles. Religion, for example, has been linked to healthier lifestyles by discouraging alcohol and tobacco consumption while encouraging exercise and personal hygiene.

The researchers found U.S. average per-capita consumption of alcohol, especially wine and spirits, rose over time from the late 1960s until its peak in the mid-1980s and then fell. Per-capita alcohol consumption between states varied widely.

Nevada, the highest alcohol-consuming state, periodically consumes more than three times more alcohol per capita than Utah, the lowest-consuming state, the study said.

Such a large difference in alcohol consumption can be attributed, in part, to Las Vegas' entertainment industry and Utah's large and socially conservative Mormon population.

"Holding everything else constant, we find that as states become more liberal over time, they experience higher consumption of beer and spirits per capita," the researchers wrote in the study. "In contrast, we find that as states become more liberal over time, they might consume less wine per capita, but this result is not robust to the inclusion of additional control variables."

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