25 August 2020 In Drinking Patterns

INTRODUCTION: A significant minority of Australians drink within the 2009 national guidelines. Despite encouragement of low-risk drinking as opposed to consumption patterns associated with greater harm, little is known about the drinking patterns of this group. This paper identifies subgroups of low-risk drinkers and their distinguishable characteristics.

METHODS: Data were sourced from the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, specifically 8492 adults (18+) who consumed 1-730 Australian standard drinks (ASD; 10 g ethanol) in the past year, and never 5+ ASD on a single occasion. Cluster analysis enabled identification of subgroups from drinking variables. Drinking patterns, socio-demographic characteristics, drinking context and alcohol-related perceptions of subgroups were examined.

RESULTS: Three subgroups were identified. Special occasion drinkers (64.6%) drank low to moderate amounts very infrequently. Regular moderates (19.6%) and Regular sippers (15.8%) drank 5-6 days a week on average, with the average number of ASD per day 1.2 and 0.5, respectively. Special occasion drinkers tended to be younger than members of more regular drinking subgroups. Perceptions of regular alcohol use also differed between Special occasion drinkers and members of the other subgroups.

DISCUSSION: Alcohol consumption patterns among low-risk drinkers are not homogeneous. Younger drinkers who consume at low-risk levels are more likely to report infrequent consumption than moderate regular consumption. A better understanding of low-risk drinkers may help increase the prominence and acceptability of this type of drinking, challenge the normativity of heavier drinking norms and help target campaigns as new information emerges on health risks associated with low-level drinking.

09 August 2019 In Drinking Patterns

BACKGROUND: Alcohol guidelines enable individuals to make informed choices about drinking and assist healthcare practitioners to identify and treat at-risk drinkers. The UK Low Risk Drinking Guidelines were revised in 2016 and the weekly guideline for men was reduced from 21 to 14 units per week. This study sought to retrospectively establish 1) the number of additional at-risk male drinkers in England, 2) which demographic characteristics were associated with being an at-risk drinker under the previous versus new guidelines.

METHODS: Average weekly alcohol consumption for men aged 16+ from the cross-sectional nationally representative Health Survey for England were used to 1) calculate annual population prevalence estimates for newly defined at-risk (> 14 to 21 vs 14 vs </=14 units/week) guidelines to assess characteristics associated with being at-risk drinkers under each guideline using 2015 data (N = 2982).

RESULTS: Population prevalence estimates of newly defined at-risk drinkers ranged from 10.2% (2014 = 2,182,401 men)-11.2% (2011 = 2,322,896 men). Under the new guidelines, men aged 55-74 (OR = 1.63,95% CI = 1.25-2.12); men in managerial/professional occupations (OR = 1.64,95% CI = 1.34-2.00); current smokers (OR = 2.26,95% CI = 1.73-2.94), ex-regular smokers (OR = 2.01,95% CI = 1.63-2.47) and ex-occasional smokers (OR = 1.85,95% CI = 1.25-2.74); men from the North East (OR = 2.08,95% CI = 1.38-3.13) and North West (OR = 1.91,95% CI = 1.41-2.60) of England all had greater odds, and non-white men had reduced odds (OR = 0.53,95% CI = 0.34-0.80) of being at-risk drinkers, as they had under the previous guidelines. Under the new guidelines only: a higher percentage of at-risk drinkers aged 16-34 (32% vs 19%) attenuated the odds of men aged 35-54 being at-risk (OR = 1.18,95% CI = 0.92-1.51); a higher percentage of married at-risk drinkers (37% vs 24%) attenuated the odds of single men being at-risk (OR = 1.28,95% CI = 0.99-1.67); men from the West Midlands (OR = 1.68,95% CI = 1.17-2.42) and London (OR = 1.53,95% CI = 1.03-2.28) had greater odds of being at-risk drinkers.

CONCLUSIONS: The change to the Low Risk Drinking Guidelines would have resulted in more than 2 million additional male at-risk drinkers in England. Most groups with greater odds of being at-risk drinkers under the new guidelines were those already known to be drinking the most, strengthening the case for targeted screening and education. Additionally, under the new guidelines, a marked proportion of 16-35 year olds and married men were at-risk and men in the West Midlands and London had greater odds of being at-risk drinkers. These groups may benefit from specific education around the new Low Risk Drinking Guidelines.


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