01 February 2017 In General Health

Since the original Comparative Risk Assessment (CRA) for alcohol consumption as part of the Global Burden of Disease Study for 1990, there had been regular updates of CRAs for alcohol from the World Health Organization and/or the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. These studies have become more and more refined with respect to establishing causality between dimensions of alcohol consumption and different disease and mortality (cause of death) outcomes, refining risk relations, and improving the methodology for estimating exposure and alcohol-attributable burden. The present review will give an overview on the main results of the CRAs with respect to alcohol consumption as a risk factor, sketch out new trends and developments, and draw implications for future research and policy.

01 February 2017 In General Health

OBJECTIVE: To describe the volume and patterns of alcohol consumption up to and including 2012, and to estimate the burden of disease attributable to alcohol consumption as measured in deaths and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost in the Americas in 2012.

METHODS: Measures of alcohol consumption were obtained from the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Information System on Alcohol and Health (GISAH). The burden of alcohol consumption was estimated in both deaths and DALYs lost based on mortality data obtained from WHO, using alcohol-attributable fractions. Regional groupings for the Americas were based on the WHO classifications for 2004 (according to child and adult mortality).

RESULTS: Regional variations were observed in the overall volume of alcohol consumed, the proportion of the alcohol market attributable to unrecorded alcohol consumption, drinking patterns, prevalence of drinking, and prevalence of heavy episodic drinking, with inhabitants of the Americas consuming more alcohol (8.4 L of pure alcohol per adult in 2012) compared to the world average. The Americas also experienced a high burden of disease attributable to alcohol consumption (4.7% of all deaths and 6.7% of all DALYs lost), especially in terms of injuries attributable to alcohol consumption.

CONCLUSIONS: Alcohol is consumed in a harmful manner in the Americas, leading to a high burden of disease, especially in terms of injuries. New cost-effective alcohol policies, such as increasing alcohol taxation, increasing the minimum legal age to purchase alcohol, and decreasing the maximum legal blood alcohol content while driving, should be implemented to decrease the harmful consumption of alcohol and the resulting burden of disease.

01 February 2017 In General Health

BACKGROUND: Explicit labelling of lower strength alcohol products could reduce alcohol consumption by attracting more people to buy and drink such products instead of higher strength ones. Alternatively, it may lead to more consumption due to a 'self-licensing' mechanism. Equivalent labelling of food or tobacco (for example "Low fat" or "Low tar") could influence consumption of those products by similar mechanisms. This systematic review examined the effects of 'Low alcohol' and equivalent labelling of alcohol, food and tobacco products on selection, consumption, and perceptions of products among adults.

METHODS: A systematic review was conducted based on Cochrane methods. Electronic and snowball searches identified 26 eligible studies. Evidence from 12 randomised controlled trials (all on food) was assessed for risk of bias, synthesised using random effects meta-analysis, and interpreted in conjunction with evidence from 14 non-randomised studies (one on alcohol, seven on food and six on tobacco). Outcomes assessed were: quantities of the product (i) selected or (ii) consumed (primary outcomes - behaviours), (iii) intentions to select or consume the product, (iv) beliefs associated with it consumption, (v) product appeal, and (vi) understanding of the label (secondary outcomes - cognitions).

RESULTS: Evidence for impacts on the primary outcomes (i.e. amounts selected or consumed) was overall of very low quality, showing mixed effects, likely to vary by specific label descriptors, products and population characteristics. Overall very low quality evidence suggested that exposure to 'Low alcohol' and equivalent labelling on alcohol, food and tobacco products can shift consumer perceptions of products, with the potential to 'self-licence' excess consumption.

CONCLUSIONS: Considerable uncertainty remains about the effects of labels denoting low alcohol, and equivalent labels, on alcohol, food and tobacco selection and consumption. Independent, high-quality studies are urgently needed to inform policies on labelling regulations.

01 February 2017 In Drinking & Eating Patterns

BACKGROUND: The Alcohol Harm Paradox refers to observations that lower socioeconomic status (SES) groups consume less alcohol but experience more alcohol-related problems. However, SES is a complex concept and its observed relationship to social problems often depends on how it is measured and the demographic groups studied. Thus this study assessed socioeconomic patterning of alcohol consumption and related harm using multiple measures of SES and examined moderation of this patterning by gender and age.

METHOD: Data were used from the Alcohol Toolkit Study between March and September 2015 on 31,878 adults (16+) living in England. Participants completed the AUDIT which includes alcohol consumption, harm and dependence modules. SES was measured via qualifications, employment, home and car ownership, income and social-grade, plus a composite of these measures. The composite score was coded such that higher scores reflected greater social-disadvantage.

RESULTS: We observed the Alcohol Harm Paradox for the composite SES measure, with a linear negative relationship between SES and AUDIT-Consumption scores (beta = -0.036, p<0.001) and a positive relationship between lower SES and AUDIT-Harm (beta = 0.022, p<0.001) and AUDIT-Dependence (beta = 0.024, p<0.001) scores. Individual measures of SES displayed different, and non-linear, relationships with AUDIT modules. For example, social-grade and income had a u-shaped relationship with AUDIT-Consumption scores while education had an inverse u-shaped relationship. Almost all measures displayed an exponential relationship with AUDIT-Dependence and AUDIT-Harm scores. We identified moderating effects from age and gender, with AUDIT-Dependence scores increasing more steeply with lower SES in men and both AUDIT-Harm and AUDIT-Dependence scores increasing more steeply with lower SES in younger age groups.

CONCLUSION: Different SES measures appear to influence whether the Alcohol Harm Paradox is observed as a linear trend across SES groups or a phenomenon associated particularly with the most disadvantaged. The paradox also appears more concentrated in men and younger age groups.

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