The overall purpose of this 36 month qualitative project is to examine the social context of drinking and the meanings and roles of intoxication among rural young adults (18-25), which includes an investigation of the structural conditions shaping intoxication, including living in poverty, unemployment, housing insecurity, lack of leisure facilities, family disruption, and effects of rural isolation, as well as the contexts and cultures of youthful heavy drinking and intoxication within rural areas. While concerns about alcohol consumption and related problems among urban youth have led to an extensive body of research, the role and meaning of alcohol in the lives of rural young adults has not generated the same research interest. This is in spite of the fact that alcohol use is more prevalent among young people in rural areas and has more serious health and social impacts than other substances. This project will examine the following four research questions: 1) What are the structural conditions that shape rural intoxication among young adults? 2) What are the drinking contexts of intoxication and to what extent do they shape alcohol use and intoxication among rural young adults? 3) To what extent are the cultures of drinking among rural young adults defined by heavy drinking and intoxication? What are the perceived social and health consequences? 4) How are these drinking and intoxication practices shaped by the intersecting identities of rural young adults? In order to examine these issues, we will conduct in-depth interviews with 200 young adults using a qualitative interview schedule, which includes a pre-coded survey instrument, detailed open-ended questions, and innovative elicitation techniques. We will disseminate findings through a project website ( that includes an accessible presentation of study findings and a social media forum to solicit feedback from study participants and people concerned about alcohol related problems among rural young adults.

Public Health Relevance

This 36 month in-depth qualitative research project will provide much-needed empirical information about the role and meaning of drinking and intoxication, including the social and health consequences of alcohol misuse, among rural young adults (age 18-25). The findings from this research will provide important information on the social context of rural drinking and intoxication which will be useful for the development of culturally sensitive, nuanced and targeted alcohol prevention and intervention campaigns for rural youth and will generate theories and hypotheses to be tested in future large-scale alcohol research.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Research Project (R01)
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Community Influences on Health Behavior Study Section (CIHB)
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Ruffin, Beverly
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Scientific Analysis Corporation
San Francisco
United States
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