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

OBJECTIVE: To examine outcomes among boys and girls that are associated with prenatal alcohol exposure.

METHODS: Boys and girls with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and randomly-selected controls were compared on a variety of physical and neurobehavioral traits.

RESULTS: Sex ratios indicated that heavy maternal binge drinking may have significantly diminished viability to birth and survival of boys postpartum more than girls by age seven. Case control comparisons of a variety of physical and neurobehavioral traits at age seven indicate that both sexes were affected similarly for a majority of variables. However, alcohol-exposed girls had significantly more dysmorphology overall than boys and performed significantly worse on non-verbal IQ tests than males. A three-step sequential regression analysis, controlling for multiple covariates, further indicated that dysmorphology among girls was significantly more associated with five maternal drinking variables and three distal maternal risk factors. However, the overall model, which included five associated neurobehavioral measures at step three, was not significant (p=0.09, two-tailed test). A separate sequential logistic regression analysis of predictors of a FASD diagnosis, however, indicated significantly more negative outcomes overall for girls than boys (Nagelkerke R2=0.42 for boys and 0.54 for girls, z=-2.9, p=0.004).

CONCLUSION: Boys and girls had mostly similar outcomes when prenatal alcohol exposure was linked to poor physical and neurocognitive development. Nevertheless, sex ratios implicate lower viability and survival of males by first grade, and girls have more dysmorphology and neurocognitive impairment than boys resulting in a higher probability of a FASD diagnosis.

Published in Pregnant Women

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

OBJECTIVES: Alcohol is a significant source of dietary calories and is a contributor to obesity. Industry pledges to provide calorie information to consumers have been cited as reasons for not introducing mandatory ingredient labelling. As part of the Public Health Responsibility Deal (RD) in England, alcohol retailers and producers committed to providing consumers with information on the calorie content of alcoholic drinks. This study examines what was achieved following this commitment and considers the implications for current industry commitments to provide information on alcohol calories.

STUDY DESIGN: Analysis of RD pledge delivery plans and progress reports. Assessment of calorie information in supermarkets and in online stores.

METHODS: (i) Analysis of the content of pledge delivery plans and annual progress reports of RD signatories to determine what action they had committed to, and had taken, to provide calorie information. (ii) Analysis of the availability of calorie information on product labels; in UK supermarkets; and on online shopping sites and websites.

RESULTS: No information was provided in any of 55 stores chosen to represent all the main UK supermarkets. Calorie information was not routinely provided on supermarkets' websites, or on product labels.

CONCLUSIONS: One of the stated purposes of the RD was to provide consumers with the information to make informed health-related choices, including providing information on the calorie content of alcoholic drinks. This study indicates that this did not take place to any significant extent. The voluntary implementation of alcohol calorie labelling by industry needs to continue to be carefully monitored to determine whether and how it is done.

Published in General Health
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