27 September 2018 In Drinking & Eating Patterns

BACKGROUND: Recent trends in alcoholic liver disease, alcohol-related emergency room admissions, and alcohol use disorder prevalence as measured by general-population surveys have raised concerns about rising alcohol-related morbidity and mortality in the United States. In contrast, upward trends in per capita alcohol consumption have been comparatively modest.

METHODS: To resolve these discordant observations, we sought to examine trends in the prevalence of alcohol use and binge drinking from 6 regularly or periodically administered national surveys using a meta-analytic approach. Annual or periodic prevalence estimates for past-12-month or past-30-day alcohol use and binge drinking were estimated for available time points between the years 2000 and 2016. Estimates were combined in a random-effects regression model in which prevalence was modeled as a log-linear function of time to obtain meta-analytic trend estimates for the full population and by sex, race, age, and educational attainment.

RESULTS: Meta-analysis-derived estimates of average annual percentage increase in the prevalence of alcohol use and binge drinking were 0.30% per year (95% CI: 0.22%, 0.38%) and 0.72% per year (95% CI: 0.46%, 0.98%), respectively. There was substantial between-survey heterogeneity among trend estimates, although there was notable consistency in the degree to which trends have impacted various demographic groups. For example, most surveys found that the changes in prevalence for alcohol use and binge drinking were large and positive for ages 50 to 64 and 65 and up, and smaller, negative, or nonsignificant for ages 18 to 29.

CONCLUSIONS: Significant increases in the prevalence of alcohol use and of binge drinking over the past 10 to 15 years were observed, but not for all demographic groups. However, the increase in binge drinking among middle-aged and older adults is substantial and may be driving increasing rates of alcohol-related morbidity and mortality.

06 September 2018 In General Health

BACKGROUND: Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for death and disability, but its overall association with health remains complex given the possible protective effects of moderate alcohol consumption on some conditions. With our comprehensive approach to health accounting within the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2016, we generated improved estimates of alcohol use and alcohol-attributable deaths and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) for 195 locations from 1990 to 2016, for both sexes and for 5-year age groups between the ages of 15 years and 95 years and older.

METHODS: Using 694 data sources of individual and population-level alcohol consumption, along with 592 prospective and retrospective studies on the risk of alcohol use, we produced estimates of the prevalence of current drinking, abstention, the distribution of alcohol consumption among current drinkers in standard drinks daily (defined as 10 g of pure ethyl alcohol), and alcohol-attributable deaths and DALYs. We made several methodological improvements compared with previous estimates: first, we adjusted alcohol sales estimates to take into account tourist and unrecorded consumption; second, we did a new meta-analysis of relative risks for 23 health outcomes associated with alcohol use; and third, we developed a new method to quantify the level of alcohol consumption that minimises the overall risk to individual health.

FINDINGS: Globally, alcohol use was the seventh leading risk factor for both deaths and DALYs in 2016, accounting for 2·2% (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 1·5-3·0) of age-standardised female deaths and 6·8% (5·8-8·0) of age-standardised male deaths. Among the population aged 15-49 years, alcohol use was the leading risk factor globally in 2016, with 3·8% (95% UI 3·2-4·3) of female deaths and 12·2% (10·8-13·6) of male deaths attributable to alcohol use. For the population aged 15-49 years, female attributable DALYs were 2·3% (95% UI 2·0-2·6) and male attributable DALYs were 8·9% (7·8-9·9). The three leading causes of attributable deaths in this age group were tuberculosis (1·4% [95% UI 1·0-1·7] of total deaths), road injuries (1·2% [0·7-1·9]), and self-harm (1·1% [0·6-1·5]). For populations aged 50 years and older, cancers accounted for a large proportion of total alcohol-attributable deaths in 2016, constituting 27·1% (95% UI 21·2-33·3) of total alcohol-attributable female deaths and 18·9% (15·3-22·6) of male deaths. The level of alcohol consumption that minimised harm across health outcomes was zero (95% UI 0·0-0·8) standard drinks per week.

INTERPRETATION: Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for global disease burden and causes substantial health loss. We found that the risk of all-cause mortality, and of cancers specifically, rises with increasing levels of consumption, and the level of consumption that minimises health loss is zero. These results suggest that alcohol control policies might need to be revised worldwide, refocusing on efforts to lower overall population-level consumption.

27 July 2018 In General Health

AIMS: To estimate differences in the strength and shape of associations between alcohol use and diagnosis-specific sickness absence.

DESIGN: A multi-cohort study. Participants (n = 47 520) responded to a survey on alcohol use at two time-points, and were linked to records of sickness absence. Diagnosis-specific sickness absence was followed for 4-7 years from the latter survey.

SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: From Finland, we had population cohort survey data from 1998 and 2003 and employee cohort survey data from 2000-02 and 2004. From France and the United Kingdom, we had employee cohort survey data from 1993 and 1997, and 1985-88 and 1991-94, respectively.

MEASUREMENTS: We used standard questionnaires to assess alcohol intake categorized into 0, 1-11 and > 11 units per week in women and 0, 1-34 and > 34 units per week in men. We identified groups with stable and changing alcohol use over time. We linked participants to records from sickness absence registers. Diagnoses of sickness absence were coded according to the International Classification of Diseases. Estimates were adjusted for sex, age, socio-economic status, smoking and body mass index.

FINDINGS: Women who reported drinking 1-11 units and men who reported drinking 1-34 units of alcohol per week in both surveys were the reference group. Compared with them, women and men who reported no alcohol use in either survey had a higher risk of sickness absence due to mental disorders [rate ratio = 1.51, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.22-1.88], musculoskeletal disorders (1.22, 95% CI = 1.06-1.41), diseases of the digestive system (1.35, 95% CI = 1.02-1.77) and diseases of the respiratory system (1.49, 95% CI = 1.29-1.72). Women who reported alcohol consumption of > 11 weekly units and men who reported alcohol consumption of > 34 units per week in both surveys were at increased risk of absence due to injury or poisoning (1.44, 95% CI = 1.13-1.83).

CONCLUSIONS: In Finland, France and the United Kingdom, people who report not drinking any alcohol on two occasions several years apart appear to have a higher prevalence of sickness absence from work with chronic somatic and mental illness diagnoses than those drinking below a risk threshold of 11 units per week for women and 34 units per week for men. Persistent at-risk drinking in Finland, France and the United Kingdom appears to be related to increased absence due to injury or poisoning.

27 July 2018 In General Health

INTRODUCTION AND AIMS: To examine the prevalence and design elements of the voluntary health warning labels and related industry initiatives on a purposive sample of alcoholic beverage containers sold in New Zealand (NZ), a country with no mandatory health warning labels.

DESIGN AND METHODS: We selected a purposive (e.g. low-cost) sample of 59 local and imported beers, wines and ready-to-drink alcoholic beverage containers available in NZ in 2016-2017. We documented the occurrence, content, size, appearance and position of messages concerning drinking during pregnancy, drink-driving, other health effects and industry-led initiatives that could relate to warnings; and collected data about alcohol content, standard drinks, ingredients and energy information.

RESULTS: A majority (80%) of the alcoholic beverage containers had a pregnancy-related warning, 73% had industry-led initiatives (e.g. advising 'responsible' consumption) and 19% had drink-driving/heavy machinery warnings. Warning labels were small, with the average area of pregnancy-related and drink-driving/heavy machinery pictograms being 45 and 36 mm(2) , respectively (i.e. pea-size). The average heights of pregnancy-related and drink-driving text were 1.6 and 2.2 mm, respectively. Pregnancy-related pictograms occupied between an average of 0.13% (wine) and 0.21% (ready-to-drink) of the available surface area of the alcoholic beverage container (i.e. less than 1/400th of the available space). Drink-driving pictograms occupied an average of 0.12% (imported beer), and 0.13% (NZ beer) of the available surface area.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: Voluntary recommendations in NZ appear to have been inadequate for producing health warnings on alcoholic beverage containers that are consistent with evidence-informed recommendations for effective labels. This finding suggests that mandatory standardised labelling outlining alcohol-related risks may be required to ensure adequate consumer information.

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