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: Observational studies show moderate alcohol use negatively associated with ischemic heart disease (IHD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, healthier attributes among moderate users compared to never users may confound the apparent association. A potentially less biased way to examine the association is Mendelian randomization, using alcohol metabolizing genes which influence alcohol use.

METHODS: We used instrumental variable analysis with aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) genotypes (AA/GA/GG) as instrumental variables for alcohol use to examine the association of alcohol use (10 g ethanol/day) with CVD risk factors (blood pressure, lipids and glucose) and morbidity (self-reported IHD and CVD) among men in the Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study.

RESULTS: ALDH2 genotypes were a credible instrument for alcohol use (F-statistic 74.6). Alcohol was positively associated with HDL-cholesterol (0.05 mmol/L per alcohol unit, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.02 to 0.08) and diastolic blood pressure (1.15 mmHg, 95% CI 0.23 to 2.07) but not with systolic blood pressure (1.00 mmHg, 95% CI -0.74 to 2.74), LDL-cholesterol (0.03 mmol/L, 95% CI -0.03 to 0.08), log transformed triglycerides (0.03 mmol/L, 95% CI -0.01 to 0.08) or log transformed fasting glucose (0.01 mmol/L, 95% CI -0.006 to 0.03), self-reported CVD (odds ratio (OR) 0.98, 95% CI 0.76 to 1.27) or self-reported IHD (OR 1.10, 95% CI 0.83 to 1.45).

CONCLUSION: Low to moderate alcohol use among men had the expected effects on most CVD risk factors but not fasting glucose. Larger studies are needed to confirm the null associations with IHD, CVD and fasting glucose.

Published in Cardiovascular System

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

BACKGROUND: Heavy drinking is a major factor in morbidity and mortality worldwide. Little information is available on trends in Canada regarding alcohol abuse. We sought to estimate abstinence, binge drinking and alcohol intake exceeding low-risk drinking guidelines in the Canadian population from 1996 to 2013.

METHODS: The data sources for this analysis were a series of cross-sectional national health surveys of the Canadian population carried out by Statistics Canada between 1996 and 2013. These were cross-sectional files from the National Population Health Surveys of 1996 and 1998, plus the Canadian Community Health Surveys from 2000 to 2013. Respondents were aged 18 years and older.

RESULTS: The proportion of binge drinkers increased steadily from 13.7% (95% confidence interval [CI] 13.2%-14.2%) in 1996 to 19.7% (95% CI 19.1%-20.3%) in 2013. The corresponding proportions for men were 20.8% (95% CI 19.9%-21.7%) in 1996, and 25.7% (95% CI 24.7%-26.6%) in 2013; for women, these proportions were 6.9% (95% CI 6.4%-7.5%) in 1996, and 13.8% (95% CI 13.1%-14.5%) in 2013. No significant increases were seen in the proportion of people who exceeded low-risk drinking guidelines or of abstainers during the same period.

INTERPRETATION: The rate of self-reported binge drinking in Canada has increased from 1996 to 2013, relatively more so among women than among men. No evidence of an increase in the proportion of people exceeding low-risk drinking guidelines or of abstainers was seen during the same period. These results suggest that binge drinking is of particular concern regarding intervention strategies aimed at improvement of public health.

Published in Drinking Patterns
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