Alcohol, Ag, and Rural Communities

Last updated on April 17th, 2022 at 04:34 pm

While only 14% of the US population lives in rural areas (USDA-ERS, 2019), rural areas account for 45% of all US alcohol-related fatalities. Agriculture is a solid anchor for our rural communities. Yet alcohol use in rural America continues to grow, threatening the stability of ag families. According to SAMHSA’s 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the percentage of adults (ages 26 and older) living in completely rural areas that engaged in heavy drinking in the past month increased between 2019 and 2020.
Drinking at a younger age increases the risk of alcohol misuse in adults. Compared to large metro areas, rural adolescents (ages 12-20) have higher rates of: alcohol use, binge drinking, heavy alcohol use, and driving under the influence. Some rural social factors that play a role in alcohol use include: a lower level of underage drinking disapproval from parents; peer acceptance of alcohol use; alcohol access at family events; isolation; and a lack of mental health support and services for rural residents, particularly youth.
While alcohol education is a mainstay of youth prevention programming, parental influence has been the foremost protective factor in preventing youth drinking behaviors (Maine Rural Health Research Center, 2012). So, to support agricultural families, we must encourage them to have self-reflective and informed conversations about alcohol use. One topic area they might first discuss could be alcohol access.
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