ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Ridesharing services are believed to decrease drunk driving crashes and deaths but they also are associated with an increase in binge drinking, according to a new study.
The study used a press release from Uber to find out when the service became available in a particular market. Then they compared that data with information about alcohol consumption and population density from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Systems Annual Survey.
The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Systems Annual Survey is an extensive survey about U.S. residents regarding their risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services.
“There’s fairly strong evidence that this expanded supply of transportation is allowing people to do less driving while drunk,” said co-author Jeffrey McCullough, associate professor of health management and policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. “But at the same time, we found that it is making it easier for people to engage in alcohol consumption particularly binge drinking, which is the worst kind of drinking.”
Researchers used data from 2010 to 2016 based in urban markets. They looked at respondents who said they had drank alcohol in the past 30 days and those who said they had engaged in binge drinking in the past month. Binge drinking is defined as having at least four drinks if you’re female and at least five drinks if you’re male.
Researchers found that binge drinking increased by 4 percent in high-density markets after Uber became available.
“Clearly there are health benefits in the reduction of drunk driving, but we are also getting an increase in binge drinking,” McCullough said. “It’s not that we should stop ride-hailing services. They do create value. But the study suggests we should be thinking about other public health risks related to alcohol consumption as transportation technology changes.”
The study was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.