BACKGROUND: Alcohol-related mortality and morbidity are high in socioeconomically disadvantaged populations compared with individuals from advantaged areas. It is unclear if this increased harm reflects differences in alcohol consumption between these socioeconomic groups, reverse causation (ie, downward social selection for high-risk drinkers), or a greater risk of harm in individuals of low socioeconomic status compared with those of higher status after similar consumption. We aimed to investigate whether the harmful effects of alcohol differ by socioeconomic status, accounting for alcohol consumption and other health-related factors.

METHODS: The Scottish Health Surveys are record-linked cross-sectional surveys representative of the adult population of Scotland. We obtained baseline demographics and data for alcohol consumption (units per week and binge drinking) from Scottish Health Surveys done in 1995, 1998, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. We matched these data to records for deaths, admissions, and prescriptions. The primary outcome was alcohol-attributable admission or death. The relation between alcohol-attributable harm and socioeconomic status was investigated for four measures (education level, social class, household income, and area-based deprivation) using Cox proportional hazards models. The potential for alcohol consumption and other risk factors (including smoking and body-mass index [BMI]) mediating social patterning was explored in separate regression models. Reverse causation was tested by comparing change in area deprivation over time.

FINDINGS: 50 236 participants (21 777 men and 28 459 women) were included in the analytical sample, with 429 986 person-years of follow-up. Low socioeconomic status was associated consistently with strikingly raised alcohol-attributable harms, including after adjustment for weekly consumption, binge drinking, BMI, and smoking. Evidence was noted of effect modification; for example, relative to light drinkers living in advantaged areas, the risk of alcohol-attributable admission or death for excessive drinkers was increased (hazard ratio 6.12, 95% CI 4.45-8.41 in advantaged areas; and 10.22, 7.73-13.53 in deprived areas). We found little support for reverse causation.

INTERPRETATION: Disadvantaged social groups have greater alcohol-attributable harms compared with individuals from advantaged areas for given levels of alcohol consumption, even after accounting for different drinking patterns, obesity, and smoking status at the individual level.

FUNDING: Medical Research Council, NHS Research Scotland, Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office

Thursday, 22 June 2017 13:32

Preventing Binge Drinking in Adolescents

BACKGROUND: In a survey taken in Germany in 2015, 14.1% of the 12- to 17-year-olds surveyed had practiced binge drinking at least once in the preceding 30 days. The school program "Klar bleiben" ("Keep a Clear Head") was designed for and implemented among 10th graders. The participants committed themselves to abstain from binge drinking for 9 weeks. We studied whether this intervention influenced the frequency and intensity of binge drinking.

METHODS: This cluster-randomized controlled trial was carried out in 196 classes of 61 schools, with a total of 4163 participants with a mean age of 15.6 years (standard deviation 0.73 years). Data were collected by questionnaire in late 2015, before the intervention and again six months later. The primary endpoints were the frequency of consumption of at least 4 or 5 alcoholic drinks (for girls and boys, respectively) and the typical quantity consumed. This trial was registered in the German Clinical Trials Registry (Deutsches Register Klinischer Studien, DRKS) with the DRKS ID number DRKS00009424.

RESULTS: At the beginning of the trial, there was no difference between the intervention group and the control group with respect to the primary endpoints. After the intervention, differences were found among participants who had consumed alcohol before the trial (73.2% of the overall sample): binge drinking at least once in the preceding month was reported by 49.4% of the control group and by 44.2% in the intervention group (p = 0.028). The mean number of alcoholic drinks consumed in each drinking episode was 5.20 in the control group and 5.01 in the intervention group (p = 0.047).

CONCLUSION: The intervention was effective only in the large subgroup of adolescents who had previously consumed alcohol: they drank alcohol less often and in smaller amounts than their counterparts in the control group.

Published in Drinking Patterns

INTRODUCTION AND AIM: This study, which builds on previous research demonstrating that drinking motives are associated with adverse consequences, investigates the associations between drinking motives and non-alcohol-attributed adverse consequences and disentangles alcohol-related and direct effects.

DESIGN AND METHOD: On the basis of a sample of 22 841 alcohol-using 13- to 16-year-olds (50.6% female) from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Scotland, Slovakia, Switzerland and Wales, structural equation models were used to estimate direct and indirect effects. Additionally, differences across countries were tested in a multigroup analysis.

RESULTS: The indirect effect (via alcohol use) was greater for injuries and academic problems than for more general outcomes such as life dissatisfaction and negative body image. For social, enhancement and coping motives, we found positive indirect effects (via alcohol use) on injuries and academic problems; the association was negative for conformity motives. The direct effect, that is, the effect above and beyond alcohol use, indicated more negative consequences among those who tended to drink more frequently for coping motives. More negative consequences, such as injuries and negative body image, were also found among those who drink for conformity motives. The pattern of association was largely comparable across countries.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: While the actual mean level of drinking motives, alcohol use and adverse consequence varied across countries, the consistency of association patterns implies that drinking motive-inspired health promotion efforts are likely to be beneficial across Europe. This is particularly important for coping drinkers because they are especially prone to adverse consequences over and above their alcohol use.

[Wicki M, Kuntsche E, Eichenberger Y, Aasvee K, Bendtsen P, Dankulincova Veselska Z, Demetrovics Z, Dzielska A, Farkas J, de Matos MG, Roberts C, Tynjala J, Valimaa R, Vieno A. Different drinking motives, different adverse consequences? Evidence among adolescents from 10 European countries. Drug Alcohol Rev 2017;00:000-000]

Published in Drinking Patterns

OBJECTIVE: Research on late-middle-aged and older adults has focused primarily on average level of alcohol consumption, overlooking variability in underlying drinking patterns. The purpose of the present study was to examine the independent contributions of an episodic heavy pattern of drinking versus a high average level of drinking as prospective predictors of drinking problems.

METHOD: The sample comprised 1,107 adults ages 55-65 years at baseline. Alcohol consumption was assessed at baseline, and drinking problems were indexed across 20 years. We used prospective negative binomial regression analyses controlling for baseline drinking problems, as well as for demographic and health factors, to predict the number of drinking problems at each of four follow-up waves (1, 4, 10, and 20 years).

RESULTS: Across waves where the effects were significant, a high average level of drinking (coefficients of 1.56, 95% CI [1.24, 1.95]; 1.48, 95% CI [1.11, 1.98]; and 1.85, 95% CI [1.23, 2.79] at 1, 10, and 20 years) and an episodic heavy pattern of drinking (coefficients of 1.61, 95% CI [1.30, 1.99]; 1.61, 95% CI [1.28, 2.03]; and 1.43, 95% CI [1.08, 1.90] at 1, 4, and 10 years) each independently increased the number of drinking problems by more than 50%.

CONCLUSIONS: Information based only on average consumption underestimates the risk of drinking problems among older adults. Both a high average level of drinking and an episodic heavy pattern of drinking pose prospective risks of later drinking problems among older adults.

Published in Drinking Patterns
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