Skip to main content

Association of life course socioeconomic disadvantage with future problem drinking and heavy drinking: gender differentials in the west of Scotland

An Erratum to this article was published on 23 August 2011



To examine gender differentials in the association between life course socioeconomic disadvantage and the risk of exceeding internationally recognised weekly and daily guidelines for ‘sensible’ alcohol consumption and problem drinking.


A population-representative cohort study of 1,218 men and women from the west of Scotland, UK was conducted. Data on life course socioeconomic position were collected in 1987/1988 (at around 35 years of age). Alcohol consumption patterns (detailed 7-day recall) and problem drinking (CAGE questionnaire) were ascertained in 1990/1992.


There was evidence of marked gender divergence in the socioeconomic position–alcohol intake/problem gradients. Typically, disadvantage in men conferred an increased risk of exceeding ‘sensible’ guidelines for weekly consumption (for own education and adult social class) and having alcohol problems (for employment status, income, adult social class and car ownership). In contrast, a reverse gradient was evident in women where adverse social status was generally associated with a reduced prevalence of these outcomes.


Investigators should consider more carefully socioeconomic patterning of alcohol intake, and possibly other health-related behaviours, separately in men and women.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Anderson P, Cremona A, Paton A, Turner C, Wallace P (1993) The risk of alcohol. Addiction 88:1493–1508

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Anon (1991) The Lord President’s report on action against alcohol misuse. HMSO

  • Anon (2003) Revised Alcohol Consumption Estimates from the Scottish Health Survey. 2008 ( Accessed 1 Jan 2009

  • Batty GD, Lawlor DA, MacIntyre S, Clark H, Leon DA (2005) Accuracy of adults’ recall of childhood social class: findings from the Aberdeen children of the 1950s study. J Epidemiol Community Health 59:898–903

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Batty GD, Deary IJ, MacIntyre S (2006a) Childhood IQ and life course socioeconomic position in relation to alcohol induced hangovers in adulthood: the Aberdeen children of the 1950s study. J Epidemiol Community Health 60:872–874

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Batty GD, Der G, MacIntyre S, Deary IJ (2006b) Does IQ explain socioeconomic inequalities in health? Evidence from a population based cohort study in the west of Scotland. BMJ 332:580–584

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Batty GD, Lewars H, Emslie C, Benzeval M, Hunt K (2008a) Problem drinking, exceeding guidelines for ‘sensible’ alcohol consumption in Scottish men: associations with life course socioeconomic disadvantage in a population-based cohort study. BMC Public Health 8:302

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Batty GD, Hunt K, Emslie C, Lewars H, Gale C (2008) Alcohol problems and all-cause mortality in men and women: predictive capacity of a clinical screening tool in a 21 year follow-up of a large, UK-wide, general population-based survey. J Psychosom Res 66:317–321

    Google Scholar 

  • Benzeval M, Der G, Ellaway A, Hunt K, Sweeting H, West P, MacIntyre S (2008) Cohort profile: west of Scotland Twenty-07 Study: health in the community. Int J Epidemiol 38:1215–1223

    Google Scholar 

  • Bloomfield K, Grittner U, Kramer S, Gmel G (2006) Social inequalities in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems in the study countries of the EU concerted action ‘Gender, culture and alcohol problems: a multi-national study’. Alcohol Alcohol Suppl 41:i26–i36

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bobak M, McKee M, Rose R, Marmot M (1999) Alcohol consumption in a national sample of the Russian population. Addiction 94:857–866

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Britton A, McKee M, Leon D (1998) Cardiovascular disease and heavy drinking: a systematic review. PHP Publications, LSHTM

  • Department of Health (1995) Sensible drinking––The Report of an Inter-Departmental Working Group. Department of Health

  • Der G (1998) A comparison of the west of Scotland Twenty-07 study sample and the 1991 census SARs. MRC Medical Sociology Unit

  • Ewing JA (1984) Detecting alcoholism. The CAGE questionnaire. JAMA 252:1905–1907

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Ford G, Ecob R, Hunt K, MacIntyre S, West P (1994) Patterns of class inequality in health through the lifespan: class gradients at 15, 35 and 55 years in the west of Scotland. Soc Sci Med 39:1037–1050

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Galobardes B, Davey Smith G, Lynch JW (2006) Systematic review of the influence of childhood socioeconomic circumstances on risk for cardiovascular disease in adulthood. Ann Epidemiol 16:91–104

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gill JS, Donaghy M (2004) Variation in the alcohol content of a ‘drink’ of wine and spirit poured by a sample of the Scottish population. Health Educ Res 19:485–491

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gronbaek M (2002) Alcohol, type of alcohol, and all-cause and coronary heart disease mortality. Ann NY Acad Sci 957:16–20

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hyde M, Jakub H, Melchior M, Van Oort F, Weyers S (2006) Comparison of the effects of low childhood socioeconomic position and low adulthood socioeconomic position on self rated health in four European studies. J Epidemiol Community Health 60:882–886

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Jefferis BJ, Manor O, Power C (2007) Social gradients in binge drinking and abstaining: trends in a cohort of British adults. J Epidemiol Community Health 61:150–153

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kuh D, Ben Shlomo Y (2004) A lifecourse approach to chronic disease epidemiology. Oxford Medical Publications

  • MacIntyre S, Annandale E, Ecob R, Ford G, Jamieson B, Maciver S, West P, Wyke S (1989) The West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study: health in the community. In: Martin C, MacQueen D (eds) Readings for a new public health. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh

  • Mayfield D, McLeod G, Hall P (1974) The CAGE questionnaire: validation of a new alcoholism screening instrument. Am J Psychiatry 131:1121–1123

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Moore RM (1904) On the comparative mortality among lives of abstainers and non-abstainers from alcoholic beverages. J Inst Actuar 38:213–276

    Google Scholar 

  • OPCS (1980) Classification of occupations 1980. HMSO

  • Poikolainen K (1995) Alcohol and mortality: a review. J Clin Epidemiol 48:455–465

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Rehn N (2004) Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004. World Health Organization

  • Sasaki S (2000) Alcohol and its relation to all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. Acta Cardiol 55:151–156

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Shaper AG (1990) Alcohol and mortality: a review of prospective studies. Br J Addict 85:837–847

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Singh-Manoux A, Ferrie JE, Lynch JW, Marmot M (2005) The role of cognitive ability (intelligence) in explaining the association between socioeconomic position and health: evidence from the Whitehall II prospective cohort study. Am J Epidemiol 161:831–839

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Sproston K, Primatesta PE (2004) Health survey for England, 2003. Volume 2: risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The Stationery Office

  • Yang S, Lynch JW, Raghunathan TE, Kauhanen J, Salonen JT, Kaplan GA (2007) Socioeconomic and psychosocial exposures across the life course and binge drinking in adulthood: population-based study. Am J Epidemiol 165:184–193

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to G. David Batty.

Additional information

An erratum to this article can be found at

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

David Batty, G., Bhaskar, A., Emslie, C. et al. Association of life course socioeconomic disadvantage with future problem drinking and heavy drinking: gender differentials in the west of Scotland. Int J Public Health 57, 119–126 (2012).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Alcohol
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Epidemiology