22 February 2019 In Drinking & Driving

BACKGROUND: Drink driving is an important risk factor for road traffic accidents (RTAs), which cause high levels of morbidity and mortality globally. Lowering the permitted blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for drivers is a common public health intervention that is enacted in countries and jurisdictions across the world. In Scotland, on Dec 5, 2014, the BAC limit for drivers was reduced from 0.08 g/dL to 0.05 g/dL. We therefore aimed to evaluate the effects of this change on RTAs and alcohol consumption.

METHODS: In this natural experiment, we used an observational, comparative interrupted time-series design by use of data on RTAs and alcohol consumption in Scotland (the interventional group) and England and Wales (the control group). We obtained weekly counts of RTAs from police accident records and we estimated weekly off-trade (eg, in supermarkets and convenience stores) and 4-weekly on-trade (eg, in bars and restaurants) alcohol consumption from market research data. We also used data from automated traffic counters as denominators to calculate RTA rates. We estimated the effect of the intervention on RTAs by use of negative binomial panel regression and on alcohol consumption outcomes by use of seasonal autoregressive integrated moving average models. Our primary outcome was weekly rates of RTAs in Scotland, England, and Wales. This study is registered with ISRCTN, number ISRCTN38602189.

FINDINGS: We assessed the weekly rate of RTAs and alcohol consumption between Jan 1, 2013, and Dec 31, 2016, before and after the BAC limit came into effect on Dec 5, 2014. After the reduction in BAC limits for drivers in Scotland, we found no significant change in weekly RTA rates after adjustment for seasonality and underlying temporal trend (rate ratio 1.01, 95% CI 0.94-1.08; p=0.77) or after adjustment for seasonality, the underlying temporal trend, and the driver characteristics of age, sex, and socioeconomic deprivation (1.00, 0.96-1.06; p=0.73). Relative to RTAs in England and Wales, where the reduction in BAC limit for drivers did not occur, we found a 7% increase in weekly RTA rates in Scotland after this reduction in BAC limit for drivers (1.07, 1.02-1.13; p=0.007 in the fully-adjusted model). Similar findings were observed for serious or fatal RTAs and single-vehicle night-time RTAs. The change in legislation in Scotland was associated with no change in alcohol consumption, measured by per-capita off-trade sales (-0.3%, -1.7 to 1.1; p=0.71), but a 0.7% decrease in alcohol consumption measured by per-capita on-trade sales (-0.7%, -0.8 to -0.5; p<0.0001).

INTERPRETATION: Lowering the driving BAC limit to 0.05 g/dL from 0.08 g/dL in Scotland was not associated with a reduction in RTAs, but this change was associated with a small reduction in per-capita alcohol consumption from on-trade alcohol sales. One plausible explanation is that the legislative change was not suitably enforced-for example with random breath testing measures. Our findings suggest that changing the legal BAC limit for drivers in isolation does not improve RTA outcomes. These findings have significant policy implications internationally as several countries and jurisdictions consider a similar reduction in the BAC limit for drivers.

FUNDING: National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research Programme.

22 June 2017 In Social and Cultural Aspects

BACKGROUND: Alcohol-related mortality and morbidity are high in socioeconomically disadvantaged populations compared with individuals from advantaged areas. It is unclear if this increased harm reflects differences in alcohol consumption between these socioeconomic groups, reverse causation (ie, downward social selection for high-risk drinkers), or a greater risk of harm in individuals of low socioeconomic status compared with those of higher status after similar consumption. We aimed to investigate whether the harmful effects of alcohol differ by socioeconomic status, accounting for alcohol consumption and other health-related factors.

METHODS: The Scottish Health Surveys are record-linked cross-sectional surveys representative of the adult population of Scotland. We obtained baseline demographics and data for alcohol consumption (units per week and binge drinking) from Scottish Health Surveys done in 1995, 1998, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. We matched these data to records for deaths, admissions, and prescriptions. The primary outcome was alcohol-attributable admission or death. The relation between alcohol-attributable harm and socioeconomic status was investigated for four measures (education level, social class, household income, and area-based deprivation) using Cox proportional hazards models. The potential for alcohol consumption and other risk factors (including smoking and body-mass index [BMI]) mediating social patterning was explored in separate regression models. Reverse causation was tested by comparing change in area deprivation over time.

FINDINGS: 50 236 participants (21 777 men and 28 459 women) were included in the analytical sample, with 429 986 person-years of follow-up. Low socioeconomic status was associated consistently with strikingly raised alcohol-attributable harms, including after adjustment for weekly consumption, binge drinking, BMI, and smoking. Evidence was noted of effect modification; for example, relative to light drinkers living in advantaged areas, the risk of alcohol-attributable admission or death for excessive drinkers was increased (hazard ratio 6.12, 95% CI 4.45-8.41 in advantaged areas; and 10.22, 7.73-13.53 in deprived areas). We found little support for reverse causation.

INTERPRETATION: Disadvantaged social groups have greater alcohol-attributable harms compared with individuals from advantaged areas for given levels of alcohol consumption, even after accounting for different drinking patterns, obesity, and smoking status at the individual level.

FUNDING: Medical Research Council, NHS Research Scotland, Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office

22 June 2017 In Drinking & Eating Patterns

INTRODUCTION AND AIM: This study, which builds on previous research demonstrating that drinking motives are associated with adverse consequences, investigates the associations between drinking motives and non-alcohol-attributed adverse consequences and disentangles alcohol-related and direct effects.

DESIGN AND METHOD: On the basis of a sample of 22 841 alcohol-using 13- to 16-year-olds (50.6% female) from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Scotland, Slovakia, Switzerland and Wales, structural equation models were used to estimate direct and indirect effects. Additionally, differences across countries were tested in a multigroup analysis.

RESULTS: The indirect effect (via alcohol use) was greater for injuries and academic problems than for more general outcomes such as life dissatisfaction and negative body image. For social, enhancement and coping motives, we found positive indirect effects (via alcohol use) on injuries and academic problems; the association was negative for conformity motives. The direct effect, that is, the effect above and beyond alcohol use, indicated more negative consequences among those who tended to drink more frequently for coping motives. More negative consequences, such as injuries and negative body image, were also found among those who drink for conformity motives. The pattern of association was largely comparable across countries.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: While the actual mean level of drinking motives, alcohol use and adverse consequence varied across countries, the consistency of association patterns implies that drinking motive-inspired health promotion efforts are likely to be beneficial across Europe. This is particularly important for coping drinkers because they are especially prone to adverse consequences over and above their alcohol use.

[Wicki M, Kuntsche E, Eichenberger Y, Aasvee K, Bendtsen P, Dankulincova Veselska Z, Demetrovics Z, Dzielska A, Farkas J, de Matos MG, Roberts C, Tynjala J, Valimaa R, Vieno A. Different drinking motives, different adverse consequences? Evidence among adolescents from 10 European countries. Drug Alcohol Rev 2017;00:000-000]

22 March 2016 In Drinking & Eating Patterns

BACKGROUND: Epidemiological research on alcohol-related harm has long given priority to studies on harm to the drinker. A limitation with this perspective is that it neglects the harm drinking causes to people around the drinker, and thus, it fails to give a full picture of alcohol-related harm in society.

AIM: The aim was to compare the prevalence and correlates of experiencing harm from the heavy drinking by family and friends across the Nordic countries and Scotland and to discuss whether potential differences match levels of drinking, prevalence of binge drinking, and alcohol-related mortality.

DATA AND METHOD: Data from recent national general population surveys with similar questions on experiences of harms from the drinking of family and friends were collected from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Scotland.

RESULTS: National estimates of the overall population prevalence of harm from the drinking of family and friends ranged from 14% to 28% across these countries, with the highest prevalence in Finland, Iceland, and Norway and lower estimates for Denmark, Sweden, and Scotland. Across all countries, the prevalence of harm from heavy drinking by family and friends was significantly higher among women and young respondents.

CONCLUSION: This study revealed large differences in the prevalence of harm across the study countries, as well as by gender and age, but the differences do not match the variation in population drinking and other indicators of harm. The implications of the findings for future research are discussed.

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