Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The role of environmental context in the dynamics and control of alcohol use
by Mubayi, Anuj, Ph.D., Arizona State University, 2008, 171; 3340900
Abstract (Summary)

Alcohol consumption is a function of social dynamics, environmental contexts, individuals' preferences and family history. Empirical surveys have not been able to rank, identify, or quantify the mechanisms responsible for heavier drinking. There have been a few attempts to apply nonlinear models to the study of the dynamics of alcohol use at the population level, but there are no systematic approaches for evaluating the impact of proposed control programs over time. In this dissertation, the role of environmental context in the dynamics of alcohol drinking is studied. First, a simple deterministic model that focuses on the impact on drinking of individuals' traffic between low- and high-risk environments, is introduced. The model studies drinking as a socially contagious process, that is, it is assumed that “contacts” between drinkers and non-drinkers in the appropriate context, may lead to drinking. The strength of the contagion process is mediated by the drinking environment. Results show that under certain assumptions, increases in the movement of drinkers between distinct drinking environments can increase the prevalence of heavy drinkers. However, the local culture of drinking environments as measured by the strength of social contacts within a given environment may in fact change the outcomes significantly. Model parameters from college data that include the results of a drinking survey at 14 state college campuses in California carried out by researchers at the Prevention Research Center at Berkeley, are estimated. The basic drinking reproduction number that measures the “reproductive” impact of moderate drinkers on light drinkers is derived from the model. Uncertainty and sensitivity analysis is performed to assess the variability in basic drinking reproduction number that results from error in measurement in social and environmental residence times parameters.

An extended model is then considered by assuming that random effects arise in the process of social interactions of drinkers, and increasing/decreasing of drinking levels may occur by chance mechanisms. This stochastic model is used to capture variability in drinking patterns as a result of these intrinsic naturally occurring random effects.

The effects of prevention and intervention programs on the distribution of drinking levels are investigated using the deterministic and stochastic models. Results from this systematic study of control programs suggest that prevention is better than intervention in controlling heavier drinking. However, exclusive implementation of prevention policies with perfect efficacy may not be feasible. Simultaneous implementation of prevention programs, and interventions in high-risk environments is the next best option. Higher rates of intervention in low-risk environments than intervention rates in high-risk environments are also better when the aim is to control high level of drinking in the community.

Indexing (document details)
School: Arizona State University
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 69/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social research, Mathematics, Public health
Keywords: Alcohol, Alcohol drinking, Drinking pattern, Drinking reproductive number, Environmental context, Mathematical model, Stochastic model, Uncertainty analysis
Publication Number: 3340900
ISBN: 978-0-549-96033-1
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