BACKGROUND: A strict high legal age limit for alcohol purchases decreases adolescents' access to alcohol, but little is known about long-term health effects. The aim was to estimate the effect of increased alcohol availability during adolescence on alcohol-related morbidity and mortality.

METHODS: A nationwide register-based study using data from a natural experiment setting. In two regions of Sweden, strong beer (4.5%-5.6% alcohol by volume) became temporarily available for purchase in grocery stores for individuals 16 years or older (instead of 21) in 1967/1968. The intervention group was defined as all individuals living in the intervention area when they were 14-20 years old (n=72 110). The remaining Swedish counties excluding bordering counties, without the policy change, were used as the control group (n=456 224). The outcomes of alcohol-related morbidity and mortality were collected from the Hospital Discharge Register and Cause of Death Register, in which average follow-up times were 38 years and 41 years, respectively. HRs with 95% CIs were obtained by Cox regression analysis.

RESULTS: In the fully adjusted model, no clear evidence of an association between increased alcohol availability during adolescence and alcohol-related morbidity (HR: 0.99, 95% CI 0.96 to 1.02) or mortality (HR: 1.02, 95% CI 0.95 to 1.10) was found.

CONCLUSION: The initial elevated risk of alcohol-related morbidity and mortality later in life among adolescents exposed to increased access to strong beer in Sweden vanished when a regional measure population density of locality was included in the model, which is important to consider in future research.

Published in General Health

BACKGROUND: Limited research is available on children's alcohol-related knowledge and alcohol-related norms, yet a better comprehension of these factors may be crucial in explaining alcohol use later in life. This study provides insights into alcohol-related knowledge and alcohol-related norms in four- to six-year-olds.

METHODS: Participating children (N=329; 48.9% boys) were shown, on a tablet, 18 drawings depicting 72 male and female adults and/or children in various situations and were asked to indicate what the depicted persons drank by touching one of 12 depicted beverages (four alcoholic; eight non-alcoholic). Subsequently, the children were asked to name the beverages and indicate whether they contained alcohol.

RESULTS: Children identified 30.7% of the alcoholic beverages (i.e., beer, champagne, red wine, and white wine) correctly by name and they identified 41.6% of the alcoholic beverages correctly as alcohol-containing. Children more often correctly identified the name and non-alcoholic content of non-alcoholic beverages compared to the name and alcoholic content of alcoholic beverages. No sex differences emerged in the correct identification of the name and the content of both alcoholic beverages and non-alcoholic beverages. However, alcohol-related knowledge was age-graded. Alcoholic beverages were more often assigned to male adults (39.2%) than to female adults (24.8%) or to children (13.2%). Additionally, alcoholic beverages were more often assigned to adults depicted in the presumably more appropriate situations (e.g., 'when having an indoor party': 37.0%) than to those depicted in the presumably more inappropriate situations (e.g., 'when driving a car': 28.6%).

CONCLUSIONS: Four- to six-year-olds already have knowledge about alcohol and its norms in adult culture. Insight into the development of children's alcohol-related knowledge and alcohol-related norms over time is required to investigate the transitions to alcohol expectancies, drinking motives, and alcohol initiation often occurring in adolescence. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved

Published in General Health

Introduction: Adolescence and young adulthood are periods of continued biological and psychosocial maturation. Thus, there may be deleterious effects of consuming large quantities of alcohol on neural development and associated cognition during this time. The purpose of this mini review is to highlight neuroimaging research that has specifically examined the effects of binge and heavy drinking on adolescent and young adult brain structure and function.

Methods: We review cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of young binge and heavy drinkers that have examined brain structure (e.g., gray and white matter volume, cortical thickness, white matter microstructure) and investigated brain response using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Results: Binge and heavy-drinking adolescents and young adults have systematically thinner and lower volume in prefrontal cortex and cerebellar regions, and attenuated white matter development. They also show elevated brain activity in fronto-parietal regions during working memory, verbal learning, and inhibitory control tasks. In response to alcohol cues, relative to controls or light-drinking individuals, binge and heavy drinkers show increased neural response mainly in mesocorticolimbic regions, including the striatum, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), hippocampus, and amygdala. Mixed findings are present in risky decision-making tasks, which could be due to large variation in task design and analysis.

Conclusions: These findings suggest altered neural structure and activity in binge and heavy-drinking youth may be related to the neurotoxic effects of consuming alcohol in large quantities during a highly plastic neurodevelopmental period, which could result in neural reorganization, and increased risk for developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Published in Drinking Patterns

BACKGROUND: Studies have indicated that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with lower incidence of diabetes in women. However, not only the amount but also the drinking pattern could be of importance when assessing the longitudinal relation between alcohol and glucose. Also, there is a lack of studies on alcohol use beginning in adolescence on adult glucose levels. The aim was to examine the association between total alcohol consumption and binge drinking between ages 16 and 43 and fasting plasma glucose at age 43.

METHODS: Data were retrieved from a 27-year prospective cohort study, the Northern Swedish Cohort. In 1981, all 9th grade students (n = 1083) within a municipality in Sweden were invited to participate. There were re-assessments at ages 18, 21, 30 and 43. This particular study sample consisted of 897 participants (82.8%). Fasting plasma glucose (mmol/L) was measured at a health examination at age 43. Total alcohol consumption (in grams) and binge drinking were calculated from alcohol consumption data obtained from questionnaires.

RESULTS: Descriptive analyses showed that men had higher levels of fasting plasma glucose as compared to women. Men also reported higher levels of alcohol consumption and binge drinking behavior. Linear regressions showed that total alcohol consumption in combination with binge drinking between ages 16 and 43 was associated with elevated fasting plasma glucose at age 43 in women (beta = 0.14, p = 0.003) but not in men after adjustment for BMI, hypertension and smoking at age 43.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings indicate that reducing binge drinking and alcohol consumption among young and middle-aged women with the highest consumption might be metabolically favorable for their future glucose metabolism.

Published in General Health
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