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

Alcohol consumption is a complex trait determined by both genetic and environmental factors, and is correlated with the risk of alcohol use disorders. Although a small number of genetic loci have been reported to be associated with variation in alcohol consumption, genetic factors are estimated to explain about half of the variance in alcohol consumption, suggesting that additional loci remain to be discovered. We conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of alcohol consumption in the large Genetic Epidemiology Research in Adult Health and Aging (GERA) cohort, in four race/ethnicity groups: non-Hispanic whites, Hispanic/Latinos, East Asians and African Americans. We examined two statistically independent phenotypes reflecting subjects' alcohol consumption during the past year, based on self-reported information: any alcohol intake (drinker/non-drinker status) and the regular quantity of drinks consumed per week (drinks/week) among drinkers. We assessed these two alcohol consumption phenotypes in each race/ethnicity group, and in a combined trans-ethnic meta-analysis comprising a total of 86 627 individuals. We observed the strongest association between the previously reported single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs671 in ALDH2 and alcohol drinker status (odd ratio (OR)=0.40, P=2.28 x 10-72) in East Asians, and also an effect on drinks/week (beta=-0.17, P=5.42 x 10-4) in the same group. We also observed a genome-wide significant association in non-Hispanic whites between the previously reported SNP rs1229984 in ADH1B and both alcohol consumption phenotypes (OR=0.79, P=2.47 x 10-20 for drinker status and beta=-0.19, P=1.91 x 10-35 for drinks/week), which replicated in Hispanic/Latinos (OR=0.72, P=4.35 x 10-7 and beta=-0.21, P=2.58 x 10-6, respectively). Although prior studies reported effects of ADH1B and ALDH2 on lifetime measures, such as risk of alcohol dependence, our study adds further evidence of the effect of the same genes on a cross-sectional measure of average drinking. Our trans-ethnic meta-analysis confirmed recent findings implicating the KLB and GCKR loci in alcohol consumption, with strongest associations observed for rs7686419 (beta=-0.04, P=3.41 x 10-10 for drinks/week and OR=0.96, P=4.08 x 10-5 for drinker status), and rs4665985 (beta=0.04, P=2.26 x 10-8 for drinks/week and OR=1.04, P=5 x 10-4 for drinker status), respectively. Finally, we also obtained confirmatory results extending previous findings implicating AUTS2, SGOL1 and SERPINC1 genes in alcohol consumption traits in non-Hispanic whites.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 9 May 2017; doi:10.1038/mp.2017.101

Published in General Health

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

OBJECTIVE: Moderate alcohol use has been broadly associated with health benefits among older adults, including improved mood. Aims of this study were to evaluate the relationship of moderate alcohol use and depressive symptomatology over a period of eight years, and to examine inflammation, indicated by C-reactive protein (CRP), as one mechanism by which this relationship functions.

METHODS: The study included 3177 community-dwelling participants over the age of 65 in 2008 drawn from the Health and Retirement Study. Data from the 2006, 2008, 2012, and 2014 waves were used. Alcohol use was measured via self-report and was dichotomized as abstinent (0 drinks per week) and moderate (1-14 drinks per week). Inflammation was measured using CRP, which was collected using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and provided in units of mug/mL. Control variables included gender, age, body mass index (BMI), and medical burden.

RESULTS: A latent growth curve model with full information maximum likelihood was used, with results revealing that moderate drinkers endorsed fewer depressive symptoms at baseline and a steeper rate of change over time. Abstinent respondents' depressive symptomatology was characterized by a more linear change rate. Further, moderate drinkers had lower CRP levels suggesting that inflammation partially mediates the relationship between moderate alcohol use and depressive symptomatology.

CONCLUSIONS: Moderate alcohol use predicts fewer depressive symptoms among older adults. This relationship is partially moderated by CRP and is eroded by the passage of time. Future research should identify additional mechanisms relating alcohol to positive health outcomes and less depressive symptomatology. Copyright (c) 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

Published in General Health
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