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.

26 January 2022 In Drinking Patterns

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the associations of status, amount, and frequency of alcohol consumption across different alcoholic beverages with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) risk and associated mortality.

MANDATE: This study included 473,957 subjects, 16,559 of whom tested positive for COVID-19. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to evaluate the associations of alcohol consumption with COVID-19 risk and associated mortality. The non-linearity association between the amount of alcohol consumption and COVID-19 risk was evaluated by a generalized additive model.

RESULTS: Subjects who consumed alcohol double above the guidelines had a higher risk of COVID-19 (1.12 [1.00, 1.25]). Consumption of red wine above or double above the guidelines played protective effects against the COVID-19. Consumption of beer and cider increased the COVID-19 risk, regardless of the frequency and amount of alcohol intake. Low-frequency of consumption of fortified wine (1-2 glasses/week) within guidelines had a protective effect against the COVID-19. High frequency of consumption of spirits (>/=5 glasses/week) within guidelines increased the COVID-19 risk, whereas the high frequency of consumption of white wine and champagne above the guidelines decreased the COVID-19 risk. The generalized additive model showed an increased risk of COVID-19 with a greater number of alcohol consumption. Alcohol drinker status, frequency, amount, and subtypes of alcoholic beverages were not associated with COVID-19 associated mortality.

CONCLUSIONS: The COVID-19 risk appears to vary across different alcoholic beverage subtypes, frequency, and amount. Red wine, white wine, and champagne have chances to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Consumption of beer and cider and spirits and heavy drinking are not recommended during the epidemics. Public health guidance should focus on reducing the risk of COVID-19 by advocating healthy lifestyle habits and preferential policies among consumers of beer and cider and spirits.

26 January 2022 In Drinking Patterns

BACKGROUND: A range of societal changes have created positive and encouraging environments for women's alcohol use. Within this context, in Western countries there is evidence of rising rates of alcohol consumption and related harms among midlife and older women. It is timely and important to explore the role of alcohol in the lives of midlife women to better understand observed data trends and to develop cohort specific policy responses. Focussing on Western countries and those with similar mixed market systems for alcohol regulation, this review aimed to identify 1) how women at midlife make sense of and account for their consumption of alcohol; 2) factors that play a role; and 3) the trends in theoretical underpinnings of qualitative research that explores women's drinking at midlife.

METHODS: A meta-study approach was undertaken. The review process involved extracting and analysing the data findings of eligible research, as well as reviewing the contextual factors and theoretical framing that actively shape research and findings.

RESULTS: Social meanings of alcohol were interwoven with alcohol's psycho-active qualities to create strong localised embodied experiences of pleasure, sociability, and respite from complicated lives and stressful circumstances in midlife women. Drinking was shaped by multiple and diverse aspects of social identity, such as sexuality, family status, membership of social and cultural groups, and associated responsibilities, underpinned by the social and material realities of their lives, societal and policy discourses around drinking, and how they physically experienced alcohol in the short and longer term.

CONCLUSION: For harm reduction strategies to be successful, further research effort should be undertaken to understand alcohol's diverse meanings and functions in women's lives and the individual, material, and socio-cultural factors that feed into these understandings. As well as broad policies that reduce overall consumption and "de-normalise" drinking in society, policy-makers could usefully work with cohorts of women to develop interventions that address the functional role of alcohol in their lives, as well as policies that address permissive regulatory environments and the overall social and economic position of women.

26 January 2022 In Drinking Patterns

INTRODUCTION: The Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol were released in 2020 by the National Health and Medical Research Council. Based on the latest evidence, the guidelines provide advice on how to keep the risk of harm from alcohol low. They refer to an Australian standard drink (10 g ethanol).

RECOMMENDATIONS: *Guideline 1: To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should drink no more than ten standard drinks a week and no more than four standard drinks on any one day. The less you drink, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol. *Guideline 2: To reduce the risk of injury and other harms to health, children and people under 18 years of age should not drink alcohol. *Guideline 3: To prevent harm from alcohol to their unborn child, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol. For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for their baby.

CHANGES AS RESULT OF THE GUIDELINE: The recommended limit for healthy adults changed from two standard drinks per day (effectively 14 per week) to ten per week. The new guideline states that the less you drink, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol. The recommended maximum on any one day remains four drinks (clarified from previously "per drinking occasion"). Guidance is clearer for pregnancy and breastfeeding, and for people aged less than 18 years, recommending not drinking.

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