Social network characteristics and heavy episodic drinking among women at risk for HIV/sexually transmitted infections

Melissa A. Davey-Rothwell, Geetanjali Chander, Laura Hester, Carl A. Latkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: Social networks can either negatively or positively influence a variety of behaviors, including alcohol use. This study examined social network characteristics that are risk factors for and protective factors against heavy episodic drinking among a sample of women at risk for HIV/sexually transmitted infections. Method: This was a cross-sectional study using baseline data from 567 impoverished women participating in an HIV prevention study in Baltimore, MD. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews at a community-based research clinic. Heavy episodic drinking was defined as six or more drinks per drinking episode on at least a weekly basis. We examined network characteristics, including structure and function and their association with heavy episodic drinking. Multivariate logistic regression was used, adjusting for individual-level factors, such as drug use, demographics, and depression. Results: Approximately 21% of the sample engaged in heavy episodic drinking at least weekly. Controlling for individuallevel factors, women who engaged in heavy episodic drinking had fewer social network members (a) who were in drug treatment, adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 0.65, 95% CI [0.49, 0.88]; (b) who were employed, AOR = 0.89, 95% CI [0.79, 0.99]; and (c) with whom the participant socialized, AOR = 0.74, 95% CI [0.63, 0.96]. Women who engaged in heavy episodic drinking had a significantly higher number of social network members with whom they drank alcohol, AOR = 1.71, 95% CI [1.43, 2.03]. Conclusions: Social network characteristics are both protective and risk factors for heavy episodic drinking among women. Interpersonal interventions, such as peer education, may be a useful strategy to decrease heavy episodic drinking and its subsequent outcomes among women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1041-1047
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of studies on alcohol and drugs
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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