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Keywords:

  • Alcohol use;
  • bingeing;
  • disasters;
  • growth mixture;
  • stressors;
  • trajectories;
  • trauma

ABSTRACT

Alcohol use increased in the New York City (NYC) metropolitan area in the first months after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.

Aims  To investigate alcohol use trajectories in the NYC metropolitan area in the 3 years after 11 September and examine the relative contributions of acute exposure to the attacks and ongoing stressors to these trajectories.

Design  We used a population-based cohort of adults recruited through a random-digit-dial telephone survey in 2002; participants completed three follow-up interviews over 30 months.

Setting  The NYC metropolitan area.

Participants  A total of 2752 non-institutionalized adult residents of NYC.

Measurements  We used growth mixture models to assess trajectories in levels of total alcohol consumption and bingeing in the past 30 days, and predictors of these trajectories.

Findings  We identified five trajectories of alcohol consumption levels and three bingeing trajectories. Predictors of higher levels of use over time included ongoing stressors, traumatic events and lower income. Ongoing exposure to stressors and low income also play a central role in bingeing trajectories.

Conclusions  While point-in-time mass traumatic events may matter in the short term, their contribution subsides over time. Accumulated stressors and traumatic events, in contrast, lead to higher levels of consumption among respondents already vulnerable to high alcohol use. Interventions to mitigate post-disaster stressors may have substantial benefit in reducing alcohol abuse in the medium- to long term.