According to the results of a new study published in the scientific journal PLOS earlier in March, people with lower income and education levels are more likely to develop medical conditions related to alcohol abuse when compared to individuals with a higher socioeconomic status.

As part of the research, scientists evaluated data from more than 2.3 million individuals from a Swedish database, finding that both men and women with a lower income and/or education level were more likely to develop health issues stemming from alcohol abuse. Importantly, these effects remained even when other important factors, such as marital status, history of psychiatric illness, and having a genetic predisposition to abuse alcohol were accounted for by the researchers.

While past studies have shown that there is a link between an individual’s socioeconomic status and alcohol use, this is the first published research demonstrating that an individual’s social class can significantly impact their future risk of acquiring alcohol-related medical conditions, including alcoholic liver disease.

“Among individuals with an alcohol use disorder, those with lower levels of education or lower incomes are at higher risk for developing an alcohol-related medical condition, such as cirrhosis or alcoholic cardiomyopathy. Additional screening and prevention efforts may be warranted to reduce health disparities,” states the article.

Furthermore, this research shows which populations are most likely to suffer from medical conditions resulting from alcohol abuse, uncovering more health disparities that arise from socioeconomic factors.

Importantly, in their article, the researchers recommend that individuals with lower income or education levels may require additional screening by health professionals to evaluate their alcohol consumption and identify related conditions.

Another study published in the medical journal The Lancet in 2023 showed that similar levels of alcohol consumption lead to greater harm in adolescents with low socioeconomic positions compared to adolescents with a high socioeconomic position, regardless of differences in drinking patterns or substance use. Specifically, the study used data from the Danish National Youth Cohort 2014, following 75,853 students attending high school and vocational schools.

The authors of the study suggest that these findings highlight the need for preventive strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm in adolescents.  “Beyond universally reducing access to alcohol, these findings suggest that focus is particularly indicated for disadvantaged groups and younger adolescents,” wrote the authors.