Does Country Life Protect Kids from Drugs and Alcohol?

The idyllic American life is identified with small towns and the rural countryside, a place isolated from modern threats of violence, drugs and alcohol. Many seek out what they perceive to be the quiet and slower pace of the country life, and believe that their children will benefit from life there.

Does a rural setting provide protection for children from the pressures of experimentation with dangerous behaviors? A recent study looked specifically at alcohol use and its effects on the ability of youth to later sustain regular employment.

Mink, Wang, Bennett, Moore, Powell and Probst examined in 2008 whether alcohol use in youth and early adulthood was related to employment as an adult for both rural and urban youth. The authors of the study wanted to see whether the rural environment insulated youth from the effects of drinking on their employment outcomes.

The researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979. The survey was a 20-year panel survey and was used to establish whether there may an association between alcohol use between the ages of 17 and 26 and employment in adulthood.

Early drinking behaviors and misuse symptoms were used to identify drinking behavior measures. Rural was defined as living outside a Metropolitan Statistical Area, and employment was defined using employment status and employment quality.

The results of the study indicated that drinking behaviors were not affected by residence. The researchers found that alcohol consumption during youth was associated with working over 40 hours per week and earning irregular compensation.

The study also found that rural youth were more likely to encounter negative employment situations as a result of drinking during youth.

The study’s findings have important implications for understanding how drinking behaviors during youth impact future employment and how those factors are affected by rural or urban environments.

Rural residence does not appear to protect youth from the effects of the consumption of alcohol as a youth and adult employment outcomes. This may be surprising to those who have historically identified rural residence with a protected environment for children and teenagers.

Further research is necessary to determine whether the results stem from a limitation of services available in rural areas when compared with urban areas. It is important to understand also how the availability of certain types of employment may affect the employment outcomes of those in rural areas.