Data were available from general population surveys carried out in six countries in the years 2000 to 2005 under the auspices of Gender, Alcohol and Culture: An International Study (GENACIS). A total of 2089 adults aged 24-32 in the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Isle of Man, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (UK) responded to questions about their drinking habits and social consequences directly resulting from their drinking. Survey methods varied from quota sampling with face-to-face interviewing in Spain and the UK to telephone surveys in Denmark and Sweden. Response rates varied from 50% to 72%. "Binge drinking" defined as a usual amount of more than 8 UK "units" for men and more than 6 units for women was more likely than moderate drinking to lead to social consequences, fights, or being asked to cut down on drinking. There were highly significant differences between the countries both in the percentages of "heavy" drinkers and in the adverse consequences of binge drinking. In Spain, the UK, and the Czech Republic binge drinking was more likely to lead to adverse consequences than was binge drinking in the other three countries. Male gender, low educational level, high drinking frequency, and single marital status were also significantly associated with adverse social consequences from drinking, but none of these variables explained the country differences. The presence of children had little effect.

The social norms marketing approach is one method used to reduce extreme alcohol consumption. The current study implemented a web-based survey (N = 891) to assess whether sensation-seeking, perceived moderate drinking norms, and social norm message believability impacted alcohol consumption on a college campus. Sensation seeking was not directly related to normative perceptions of others' moderate alcohol consumption. Sensation seeking, perceived norms, and message believability all had direct effects on alcohol consumption, and the interaction of sensation seeking and message believability impacted alcohol consumption, while the interaction of sensation seeking and perceived norms on alcohol consumption was marginally significant. Implications of these findings for the social norms marketing approach are discussed.

Efforts to discourage excessive alcohol use among young people can only be effective if the target audience is exposed to, attends to, and comprehends key messages. The aim of this study was to examine age and sex differences in drinking motives to better inform development of targeted interventions to reduce alcohol-related harm. Thirty individual interviews and 12 group interviews were conducted with English 13-25 year olds. Interviewees gave multiple motivations for drinking - especially those related to image and reputation, and played down the health implications of heavy drinking. Negative aspects of drinking - caring for drunk friends, being cared for when drunk and suffering through hangovers with friends - were considered to offer opportunities for closer interpersonal bonding than other social activities. Respondents distanced themselves from 'problem' drinkers, but disapproved of others' problematic drinking or antisocial behaviour. Narrative messages demonstrating the social consequences of excessive consumption were preferred to single, static messages emphasising risk or harm. Interviewees noted that interventions must use an engaging tone or pitch: they considered many campaigns to be patronising or preaching. A lack of consensus between age and sex groups highlighted a need for multifaceted, multi-modal approaches that utilise mobile technologies and new media.

BACKGROUND: There is substantial debate as to whether moderate alcohol use during pregnancy could have subtle but important effects on offspring, by impairing later cognitive function and thus school performance. The authors aimed to investigate the unconfounded effect of moderately increased prenatal alcohol exposure on cognitive/educational performance.

METHODS: We used mother-offspring pairs participating in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) and performed both conventional observational analyses and Mendelian randomization using an ADH1B variant (rs1229984) associated with reduced alcohol consumption. Women of White European origin with genotype and self-reported prenatal alcohol consumption, whose offspring's IQ score had been assessed in clinic (N = 4061 pairs) or Key Stage 2 (KS2) academic achievement score was available through linkage to the National Pupil Database (N = 6268), contributed to the analyses.

RESULTS: Women reporting moderate drinking before and during early pregnancy were relatively affluent compared with women reporting lighter drinking, and their children had higher KS2 and IQ scores. In contrast, children whose mothers' genotype predisposes to lower consumption or abstinence during early pregnancy had higher KS2 scores (mean difference +1.7, 95% confidence interval +0.4, +3.0) than children of mothers whose genotype predisposed to heavier drinking, after adjustment for population stratification.

CONCLUSIONS: Better offspring cognitive/educational outcomes observed in association with prenatal alcohol exposure presumably reflected residual confounding by factors associated with social position and maternal education. The unconfounded Mendelian randomization estimates suggest a small but potentially important detrimental effect of small increases in prenatal alcohol exposure, at least on educational outcomes.

Published in Pregnant Women

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