Modelling alcohol use behavior at population scale based on social role theory: An exploratory agent-based model


Purpose: The relationships between social roles and patterns of alcohol use have been explored empirically within the alcohol research community; however, the mechanisms by which social roles impact on alcohol consumption, and vice versa, remain poorly theorized. We present a set of mechanisms based on social role theory to describe how social roles interact with alcohol use behaviors at population-level.

Methods: An agent based model was implemented in RepastHPC to simulate dynamic social role change underlying drinking behaviors over time. The model was used to explore population-level alcohol use in San Diego County.

Data: The agent-based model was parameterized using the 1980 US Census, the 1980 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), and longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Model outputs were compared to repeated cross-sectional data from NSDUH, 1980-2000.

Results: The model produced time trends for the average number of social roles in SDC over time, with drinkers consistently having a lower number of roles, on average, compared to the total population. Dynamics in the number of social roles were associated with smaller-scale trends in drinking prevalence and average weekly quantity. Model fit was reasonable compared to NSDUH observations on drinking prevalence, but less satisfactory for drinking quantity.

Conclusion: A baseline model has been produced that can examine quantitative, mechanism-based explanations for how changes in social roles impact on alcohol use, and vice versa. Further research is needed to calibrate the model to empirical data, and extend the capabilities of the model structures.

Conflict of interest statement: The authors declare that no relationship exists that could be viewed as presenting a potential conflict of interest.

Topic: Drinking cultures