Background. We assessed direct effects of neighborhood-level characteristics and interactive effects of neighborhood-level characteristics and individual socioeconomic position on adult smoking and drinking, after consideration of individual-level characteristics in Taiwan. Methods. Data on individual sociodemographic characteristics, smoking, and drinking were obtained from Taiwan Social Change Survey conducted in 1990, 1995, and 2000. The overall response rate was 67%. A total of 5883 women and men aged over 20 living in 434 neighborhoods were interviewed. Participants' addresses were geocoded and linked with Taiwan census data for measuring neighborhood-level characteristics including neighborhood education, neighborhood concentration of elderly people, and neighborhood social disorganization. The data were analyzed with multilevel binomial regression models. Results. Several interaction effects between neighborhood characteristics and individual socioeconomic status (SES) were found in multilevel analyses. Our results indicated that different neighborhood characteristics led to different interaction patterns. For example, neighborhood education had a positive effect on smoking for low SES women, in contrast to a negative effect on smoking for high SES women. This result supports the hypothesis of "relative deprivation," suggesting that poor people living in affluent neighborhoods suffer from relative deprivation and relative standing. On the other hand, neighborhood social disorganization has positive effects on drinking for low SES individuals, but not for high SES individuals. These interactive effects support the hypothesis of the double jeopardy theory, suggesting that living in neighborhoods with high social disorganization will intensify the effects of individual low SES. Conclusion. The findings of this study show new evidence for the effects of neighborhood characteristics on individual smoking and drinking in Taiwan, suggesting that more studies are needed to understand neighborhood effects in Asian societies.
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