02 August 2016 In Drinking & Eating Patterns

BACKGROUND: Pre-drinking has been linked to subsequent heavy drinking and the engagement in multiple risky behaviors.

OBJECTIVES: The present study examined a group of adolescents who recently had a "big night out" to determine whether there were differences in their pre-drinking behavior based on age, gender, geographic location, and social setting.

METHODS: Participants (n = 351, aged 16-19) representing the heaviest 20-25% of drinkers in their age group were recruited using nonrandom sampling from metropolitan (Melbourne, Sydney, Perth) or regional (Bunbury) locations across Australia and administered a survey by a trained interviewer.

RESULTS: Almost half the sample pre-drank (n = 149), most commonly at a friend's house. Those aged 18-19 were more likely to pre-drink, and did so at higher quantities compared to their younger counterparts. Males and females reported similar pre-drinking duration, quantity and amount spent on alcohol. Compared to those in cities, regional participants consumed greater quantities over longer periods of time. Two-thirds of participants consumed alcohol in excess of national guidelines during their pre-drinking session. These participants were more likely to nominate price as a motivation to pre-drink and were less likely to report that someone else provided them alcohol.

CONCLUSIONS: This study sheds light on the pre-drinking habits of a population of young risky drinkers, and highlights the need for policy makers to address this form of drinking to reduce alcohol-related harm among young people.

02 August 2016 In Drinking & Eating Patterns

BACKGROUND: There is consistent evidence that individuals in higher socioeconomic status groups are more likely to report exceeding recommended drinking limits, but those in lower socioeconomic status groups experience more alcohol-related harm. This has been called the 'alcohol harm paradox'. Such studies typically use standard cut-offs to define heavy drinking, which are exceeded by a large proportion of adults. Our study pools data from six years (2008-2013) of the population-based Health Survey for England to test whether the socioeconomic distribution of more extreme levels of drinking could help explain the paradox.

METHODS: The study included 51,498 adults from a representative sample of the adult population of England for a cross-sectional analysis of associations between socioeconomic status and self-reported drinking. Heavy weekly drinking was measured at four thresholds, ranging from 112 g+/168 g + (alcohol for women/men, or 14/21 UK standard units) to 680 g+/880 g + (or 85/110 UK standard units) per week. Heavy episodic drinking was also measured at four thresholds, from 48 g+/64 g + (or 6/8 UK standard units) to 192 g+/256 g + (or 24/32 UK standard units) in one day. Socioeconomic status indicators were equivalised household income, education, occupation and neighbourhood deprivation.

RESULTS: Lower socioeconomic status was associated with lower likelihoods of exceeding recommended limits for weekly and episodic drinking, and higher likelihoods of exceeding more extreme thresholds. For example, participants in routine or manual occupations had 0.65 (95 % CI 0.57-0.74) times the odds of exceeding the recommended weekly limit compared to those in 'higher managerial' occupations, and 2.15 (95 % CI 1.06-4.36) times the odds of exceeding the highest threshold. Similarly, participants in the lowest income quintile had 0.60 (95 % CI 0.52-0.69) times the odds of exceeding the recommended weekly limit when compared to the highest quintile, and 2.30 (95 % CI 1.28-4.13) times the odds of exceeding the highest threshold.

CONCLUSIONS: Low socioeconomic status groups are more likely to drink at extreme levels, which may partially explain the alcohol harm paradox. Policies that address alcohol-related health inequalities need to consider extreme drinking levels in some sub-groups that may be associated with multiple markers of deprivation. This will require a more disaggregated understanding of drinking practices.

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