Today, many young people in Korea experience deprivation in various areas of life while carrying out developmental tasks in the human life cycle. Previous research indicated that such experiences act as social determinants that affect problem drinking. The present study used LCGA and multinomial logistic regression analysis to investigate the effects of multidimensional deprivation experienced by young people on the developmental trajectories of problem drinking. This was examined using nationally representative longitudinal data. By employing LCGA, we identified multiple longitudinal patterns in problem drinking. The classification of distinct subgroups, each having a similar pattern of trajectories, allowed us to identify class membership and examine predictors of problem drinking varying across classes.
The latent group analysis of problem drinking’s developmental trajectory among young people, i.e., the type of change over time, yielded three latent groups. The first group called the low-level maintenance group (36.0%), comprises Korean young adults who had low levels of alcohol use and maintained this low level during the study period. The second group, called the moderate-level increasing group (45.6%), includes young adults who initially showed moderate levels of problem drinking and exhibited a moderate increase in problem drinking over time. The last group, called the risky drinking increasing group (18.4%), consists of young people who had the highest level of problem drinking at the baseline and showed a rapid increase in problem drinking. These developmental trajectories among young people show that there are different patterns of problem drinking development. Previous studies focused on alcohol problems among young people in general [65, 66]; however, the current study expands on previous knowledge by identifying different longitudinal patterns in young people’s drinking in Korea.
These findings suggest that prevention and intervention programs should consider different levels of problem drinking among young people. For instance, for young people who fall within low-level problem drinking, prevention efforts should focus on keeping alcohol use at this low level so that they do not develop a risky drinking habit. Drinking patterns formed during early adulthood are likely to persist in later life [23, 67, 68]. This is especially true in Korea, as it is known as a culture of high tolerance toward drinking behavior. Prevention education, early counseling programs, and local campaigns geared toward young people and college students should be implemented to foster healthy drinking habits. Early screening and interventions, including moderate drinking programs, should be provided for those in the risky drinking group. For those in need of treatment, a system that provides appropriate referrals is necessary. Harmful drinking at a young age may indicate the beginning of chronic alcohol problems; therefore, active interventions are required for this group.
The findings from multinomial logistic regression indicated that being male, poverty, housing deprivation, and social deprivation were significant predictors of belonging to the risky drinking increasing group. Although the effects were statistically significant, it is necessary to consider the effect size of these factors. Examination of the relative risk ratios showed that being male and being in poverty had a larger influence on belonging to the risky drinking increasing group than social deprivation and housing deprivation. This finding is consistent with previous knowledge, which had consistently reported that men experience more drinking problems than women. The fact that poverty, a main socioeconomic indicator, has the most important role in predicting risky drinking confirms the importance of examining social determinants of alcohol related issues. Poverty is closely related to many areas of deprivation. If practice and policy on alcohol-related problems do not take livelihoods into account, the benefits of intervention effects will be limited.
Examining the effects of multidimensional deprivation on the latent classes of developmental trajectories of problem drinking among young Korean people, the study results indicate that deprivation in housing and social deprivation increased the probability of belonging to the risky drinking increasing group compared to each reference group (the low-level maintenance group and the moderate-level increasing group). The association between housing deprivation and the change in pattern in problem drinking is consistent with previous studies that maintained that housing is a significant factor of alcohol-related behavior [37, 69]. This also supports studies that have reported that the residential environment is a predictive factor of physical and mental health including problem drinking [70, 71]. For example, one longitudinal study found that the experience of housing deprivation increased the risk of problem drinking . Current findings point to the need to examine the meaning of housing in Korean society. Correlation analysis shows that living in a metropolitan area and housing deprivation are negatively associated (Additional file 1). This finding seems counterintuitive, considering the high price of housing in metropolitan areas. However, housing deprivation does not only include housing prices, but also includes the living conditions of the residential area, ability to pay rent, structure of the place, and so on. In other words, the negative relationship between residential area and housing deprivation may mean that young people living outside the metropolitan area may be in a worse economic position and may have relatively low satisfaction with their living environment (i.e., low accessibility to various resources and activities). When both variables are included in the analyses, only housing deprivation was a significant predictor of problem drinking.
A residence is a basic living condition in life, but housing has various meanings for young Koreans. Having the means to secure appropriate housing is considered an essential condition for completing developmental tasks, such as marriage and having children, and a way to relieve anxiety about uncertainties in life [12, 13, 54]. Housing has become an emblematic example of inherited wealth in the country. As a result, housing has become a distinctive indicator of inequality and a proxy for success . Unlike older generations who were able to achieve homeownership through individual efforts and hard work, young people who face current social conditions, such as the decrease in decent job opportunities, income polarization, and increasing housing prices, perceive housing to be a large factor exacerbating their sense of deprivation.
Ultimately, housing deprivation reflects inequality for young people, and we may infer that this perceived inequality has contributed to a sharp increase in problem drinking . The provision of stable housing is known to assist in the recovery from alcoholism [72, 73]. The current study’s findings, along with the results from several previous studies, confirm that the physical environment, such as stable housing, has a direct and indirect effect on mental health, and specifically, problem drinking. This implies that we need to consider the physical environment in initial assessments and during the creation of interventions for problem drinking. Interventions may have to include referrals to resources for housing services when possible. Outreach and pop-up counseling booths for early screening and brief interventions may benefit so-called “one-room villages” where many vulnerable young people in Korea reside. The physical environment, such as housing, is not usually considered a factor associated with problem drinking, but our study showed that housing issues affect it.
Finally, the study findings reported on the relationship between social deprivation and problem drinking among young people, indicating the social environment young people face today. With the growing instability in the labor market, young Koreans are repeatedly entering and exiting different jobs to seek better placements . Young people in this situation may have great desires for self-development, social relationships, and cultural life ; however, they might still experience limited opportunities to socialize with others and are involuntarily excluded from resources that make emotional and social connections possible . The social relationships that act as a protective factor for problem drinking may be weakened. The common factor underlying both housing and social deprivation is anxiety. Social deprivation is related to feeling alienated and disconnected from others, which leads to anxiety. When people are disconnected from the opportunities that compose the standard of a happy life in that society, they are likely to experience low self-esteem and shame due to deprivation and exclusion, which may eventually be expressed in the form of social pathologies, including problematic alcohol use . In other words, addictions are used to adapt to feeling alienated and disconnected. In particular, for young people with limited resources, alcohol can act as a quick remedy or coping method for anxiety.
In addition, there is an argument that young people lack formal social welfare resources compared to other generations . There are relatively fewer public resources for young adults who may require services when facing economic or psychological crises and social deprivation. Therefore, we can infer that those vulnerable to social deprivation are more likely to experience risky drinking and continue to engage in risky drinking over time. Early interventions are needed to detect and prevent alcohol-related problems for those likely to follow high-risk trajectories.
This study’s findings suggest that public policies targeting young people should give more attention to their problem drinking and seek ways to expand and improve public social networks and social resources. Comparing the results of this study with change patterns of problem drinking of those in the middle-aged and older generations, we can observe several patterns of problem drinking as well as areas of social deprivation that affect it. A recent study that used similar data showed that for the middle-aged group, social security, work, and income deprivation were significant predictors of problem drinking, whereas social deprivation was the main predictor for the elderly group . For young people, policies and programs should be designed to provide various social coping resources that help prevent disconnections from family and friends and expand social and emotional exchange. Young people living alone with unstable jobs are particularly at risk of social deprivation and may benefit from monitoring services that can detect problem drinking and other mental health issues.
This study examined a longitudinal relationship between deprivation and problem drinking using a deprivation index based on different needs in the stages of the human life cycle. Through the study, we were able to identify the social risks young people face today in the process of performing developmental tasks and how these risks affect individual mental health, specifically problem drinking. This study is of value in that it examined specific areas of deprivation to which young people are more sensitive and their association with drinking practices. Furthermore, this work adds to current knowledge in alcohol research by examining longitudinal changes in groups showing different patterns of developmental trajectories.
Despite the contributions of this study to the literature on alcohol problems, it is important to identify its limitations. The deprivation index was necessarily formed only from items available in the limited secondary data, and it could not include all the functional and diverse areas of deprivation young people may face in daily life today. Another limitation of the data is that they are correlational, and it is difficult to determine a causal relationship between independent variables. Finally, the study only examined the trajectories of problem drinking and did not follow changes in multidimensional deprivation over time. Because longitudinal changes in deprivation as predictive factors can influence problem drinking, future research should examine changing patterns in different areas of deprivation to understand the more dynamic processes in the relationship.