In general, a lower socioeconomic status (SES) is related to a lower health status, more health problems, and a shorter life expectancy. Although causal relations between SES and health are unclear, lifestyle factors play an intermediate role. The purpose of the present study was to obtain more insight into the relation between SES, alcohol consumption, alcohol-related problems, and problem drinking, through a general population survey among 8000 people in Rotterdam. Odds ratios were calculated using educational level as independent, and alcohol consumption, alcohol-related problems, and problem drinking as dependent variables. Abstinence decreased significantly by increasing educational level for both sexes. For men, excessive drinking, and notably very excessive drinking, was more prevalent in the lowest educational group. For women, no significant relation between educational level and prevalence of excessive drinking was found. After controlling for differences in drinking behaviour, among men the prevalence of 'psychological dependence' and 'social problems' was higher in intermediate educational groups, whereas prevalence of 'drunkenness' was lower in intermediate educational groups. For women, a negative relation was found between educational level and 'psychological dependence'; prevalence of 'symptomatic drinking' was higher in the lowest educational group.
Prevalence of problem drinking was not related to educational level in either sex. It is concluded that differences exist between educational levels with respect to abstinence, but only limited differences were found with respect to excessive drinking. Furthermore, there is evidence for higher prevalences of alcohol-related problems in lower educational levels, after controlling for differences in drinking behaviour, in both sexes.