Alcohol and Alcoholism, 50 (6), 700-707
Aims: This study aimed at testing whether drinking volume and episodic heavy drinking (EHD) frequencyin Germany are polarizing between consumption levels over time. Polarization is defined as areduction in alcohol use among the majority of the population, while a subpopulation with a highintake level maintains or increases its drinking or its EHD frequency. The polarization hypothesiswas tested across and within socio-economic subgroups. Method: Analyses were based on seven cross-sectional waves of the Epidemiological Survey of Substance Abuse (ESA) conducted between 1995 and 2012 (n = 7833-9084). Overall polarizationwas estimated based on regression models with time by consumption level interactions; the three-way interaction with socio-economic status (SES) was consecutively introduced to test the stabilityof effects over socio-economic strata. Interactions were interpreted by graphical inspection. Results: For both alcohol use indicators, declines over timewere largest in the highest consumptionlevel. This was found within all SES groups, but was most pronounced at low and least pronouncedat medium SES. Conclusion: The results indicate no polarization but convergence between consumption levels.Socio-economic status groups differ in the magnitude of convergence which was lowest in mediumSES. The overall decline was strongest for the highest consumption level of low SES.