22 March 2022 In Drinking Patterns

ISSUES: Numerous studies have examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on alcohol use changes in Europe, with concerns raised regarding increased use and related harms.

APPROACH: We synthesised observational studies published between 1 January 2020 and 31 September 2021 on self-reported changes in alcohol use associated with COVID-19. Electronic databases were searched for studies evaluating individual data from European general and clinical populations. We identified 646 reports, of which 56 general population studies were suitable for random-effects meta-analyses of proportional differences in alcohol use changes. Variations by time, sub-region and study quality were assessed in subsequent meta-regressions. Additional 16 reports identified were summarised narratively.

KEY FINDINGS: Compiling reports measuring changes in overall alcohol use, slightly more individuals indicated a decrease than an increase in their alcohol use during the pandemic [3.8%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.00-7.6%]. Decreases were also reported more often than increases in drinking frequency (8.0%, 95% CI 2.7-13.2%), quantity consumed (12.2%, 95% CI 8.3-16.2%) and heavy episodic drinking (17.7%, 95% CI 13.6-21.8%). Among people with pre-existing high drinking levels/alcohol use disorder, high-level drinking patterns appear to have solidified or intensified.

IMPLICATIONS: Pandemic-related changes in alcohol use may be associated with pre-pandemic drinking levels. Increases among high-risk alcohol users are concerning, suggesting a need for ongoing monitoring and support from relevant health-care services.

CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that more people reduced their alcohol use in Europe than increased it since the onset of the pandemic. However high-quality studies examining specific change mechanisms at the population level are lacking.

25 August 2020 In Drinking Patterns

OBJECTIVES: The aims of this study were to: (1) describe alcohol industry corporate social responsibility (CSR) actions conducted across six global geographic regions; (2) identify the benefits accruing to the industry ('doing well'); and (3) estimate the public health impact of the actions ('doing good').

SETTING: Actions from six global geographic regions.

PARTICIPANTS: A web-based compendium of 3551 industry actions, representing the efforts of the alcohol industry to reduce harmful alcohol use, was issued in 2012. The compendium consisted of short descriptions of each action, plus other information about the sponsorship, content and evaluation of the activities. Public health professionals (n=19) rated a sample (n=1046) of the actions using a reliable content rating procedure.

OUTCOME MEASURES: WHO Global strategy target area, estimated population reach, risk of harm, advertising potential, policy impact potential and other aspects of the activity.

RESULTS: The industry actions were conducted disproportionately in regions with high-income countries (Europe and North America), with lower proportions in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Only 27% conformed to recommended WHO target areas for global action to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. The overwhelming majority (96.8%) of industry actions lacked scientific support (p<0.01) and 11.0% had the potential for doing harm. The benefits accruing to the industry ('doing well') included brand marketing and the use of CSR to manage risk and achieve strategic goals.

CONCLUSION: Alcohol industry CSR activities are unlikely to reduce harmful alcohol use but they do provide commercial strategic advantage while at the same time appearing to have a public health purpose.

22 February 2019 In General Health

BACKGROUND: Prevention aiming at smoking, alcohol consumption, and BMI could potentially bring large gains in life expectancy (LE) and health expectancy measures such as Healthy Life Years (HLY) and Life Expectancy in Good Perceived Health (LEGPH) in the European Union. However, the potential gains might differ by region.

METHODS: A Sullivan life table model was applied for 27 European countries to calculate the impact of alternative scenarios of lifestyle behavior on life and health expectancy. Results were then pooled over countries to present the potential gains in HLY and LEGPH for four European regions.

RESULTS: Simulations show that up to 4 years of extra health expectancy can be gained by getting all countries to the healthiest levels of lifestyle observed in EU countries. This is more than the 2 years to be gained in life expectancy. Generally, Eastern Europe has the lowest LE, HLY, and LEGPH. Even though the largest gains in LEPGH and HLY can also be made in Eastern Europe, the gap in LE, HLY, and LEGPH can only in a small part be closed by changing smoking, alcohol consumption, and BMI.

CONCLUSION: Based on the current data, up to 4 years of good health could be gained by adopting lifestyle as seen in the best-performing countries. Only a part of the lagging health expectancy of Eastern Europe can potentially be solved by improvements in lifestyle involving smoking and BMI. Before it is definitely concluded that lifestyle policy for alcohol use is of relatively little importance compared to smoking or BMI, as our findings suggest, better data should be gathered in all European countries concerning alcohol use and the odds ratios of overconsumption of alcohol.

03 May 2018 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
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