AIM: To examine whether exposure to increased alcohol availability in utero is associated with later alcohol-related health problems.

METHOD: Register-linked population-based longitudinal study using data from a natural experiment setting, including 363 286 children born 1965-71. An experimental alcohol policy change was piloted in two regions of Sweden in 1967-68, where access to strong beer increased for 16-20 year old. Children exposed in utero to the policy change were compared to children born elsewhere in Sweden (excluding a border area), and to children born before and after the policy change. The outcome was obtained from the National Hospital Discharge Register using the Swedish index of alcohol-related inpatient care. Hazard ratios (HR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated by Cox regression analysis.

RESULTS: The results suggest that children conceived by young mothers prior to the policy change but exposed to it in utero had a slightly increased risk of alcohol-related health problems later in life (HR 1.26, 95% CI 0.94-1.68). A tendency towards an inverse association was found among children conceived by older mothers (HR 0.88, 95% CI 0.74-1.06).

CONCLUSION: Results obtained from a natural experiment setting found no consistent evidence of long-term health consequences among children exposed in utero to an alcohol policy change. Some evidence however suggested an increased risk of alcohol-related health problems among the exposed children of young mothers.

Published in General Health

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: Hazardous and harmful alcohol use and high blood pressure are central risk factors related to premature non-communicable disease (NCD) mortality worldwide. A reduction in the prevalence of both risk factors has been suggested as a route to reach the global NCD targets. This study aims to highlight that screening and interventions for hypertension and hazardous and harmful alcohol use in primary healthcare can contribute substantially to achieving the NCD targets.

METHODS: A consensus conference based on systematic reviews, meta-analyses, clinical guidelines, experimental studies, and statistical modelling which had been presented and discussed in five preparatory meetings, was undertaken. Specifically, we modelled changes in blood pressure distributions and potential lives saved for the five largest European countries if screening and appropriate intervention rates in primary healthcare settings were increased. Recommendations to handle alcohol-induced hypertension in primary healthcare settings were derived at the conference, and their degree of evidence was graded.

RESULTS: Screening and appropriate interventions for hazardous alcohol use and use disorders could lower blood pressure levels, but there is a lack in implementing these measures in European primary healthcare. Recommendations included (1) an increase in screening for hypertension (evidence grade: high), (2) an increase in screening and brief advice on hazardous and harmful drinking for people with newly detected hypertension by physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals (evidence grade: high), (3) the conduct of clinical management of less severe alcohol use disorders for incident people with hypertension in primary healthcare (evidence grade: moderate), and (4) screening for alcohol use in hypertension that is not well controlled (evidence grade: moderate). The first three measures were estimated to result in a decreased hypertension prevalence and hundreds of saved lives annually in the examined countries.

CONCLUSIONS: The implementation of the outlined recommendations could contribute to reducing the burden associated with hypertension and hazardous and harmful alcohol use and thus to achievement of the NCD targets. Implementation should be conducted in controlled settings with evaluation, including, but not limited to, economic evaluation.

Published in General Health

We tested whether teetotalism explains the upturn in cardiovascular risk for non-drinkers and whether wine is a more favorable alcohol type. We studied 115,592 men and women aged 40-44 years who participated in the age 40 program in Norway in 1994-1999 and were followed for an average of 16 years with 550 cardiovascular deaths. Self-reported number of glasses of beer, wine and spirits during 14 days was transformed to alcohol units/day. One unit is approximately 8 grams of pure alcohol. The mean and median number of alcohol units/day were 0.70 and 0.46. Teetotallers had higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than alcohol consumers, multivariate adjusted hazard ratio (95% CI) 1.97 (1.52-2.56). The use of alcohol-related deaths as endpoint substantiated a selection of previous alcohol users to the teetotal group. Without teetotallers there was no association between alcohol consumption and cardiovascular disease mortality. However, the multivariate adjusted hazard ratio per one unit/day of wine was 0.76 (0.58-0.99). The corresponding figures for beer and spirits were 1.04 (0.94-1.15) and 0.98 (0.75-1.29). The upturn in risk for non-drinkers could be explained by a higher risk for teetotallers who likely included previous alcohol users or teetotalers who started to drink during follow-up. Wine gave the most favorable risk estimates.

Published in Cardiovascular System
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The authors have taken reasonable care in ensuring the accuracy of the information herein at the time of publication and are not responsible for any errors or omissions. Read more on our disclaimer.