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 General Health

OBJECTIVE: Moderate alcohol use has been broadly associated with health benefits among older adults, including improved mood. Aims of this study were to evaluate the relationship of moderate alcohol use and depressive symptomatology over a period of eight years, and to examine inflammation, indicated by C-reactive protein (CRP), as one mechanism by which this relationship functions.

METHODS: The study included 3177 community-dwelling participants over the age of 65 in 2008 drawn from the Health and Retirement Study. Data from the 2006, 2008, 2012, and 2014 waves were used. Alcohol use was measured via self-report and was dichotomized as abstinent (0 drinks per week) and moderate (1-14 drinks per week). Inflammation was measured using CRP, which was collected using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and provided in units of mug/mL. Control variables included gender, age, body mass index (BMI), and medical burden.

RESULTS: A latent growth curve model with full information maximum likelihood was used, with results revealing that moderate drinkers endorsed fewer depressive symptoms at baseline and a steeper rate of change over time. Abstinent respondents' depressive symptomatology was characterized by a more linear change rate. Further, moderate drinkers had lower CRP levels suggesting that inflammation partially mediates the relationship between moderate alcohol use and depressive symptomatology.

CONCLUSIONS: Moderate alcohol use predicts fewer depressive symptoms among older adults. This relationship is partially moderated by CRP and is eroded by the passage of time. Future research should identify additional mechanisms relating alcohol to positive health outcomes and less depressive symptomatology. Copyright (c) 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

26 April 2017 In Cancer

Alcohol consumption by adult women is consistently associated with risk of breast cancer. Several questions regarding alcohol and breast cancer need to be addressed. Menarche to first pregnancy represents a window of time when breast tissue is particularly susceptible to carcinogens. Youth alcohol consumption is common in the USA, largely in the form of binge drinking and heavy drinking. Whether alcohol intake acts early in the process of breast tumorigenesis is unclear. This review aims to focus on the influences of timing and patterns of alcohol consumption and the effect of alcohol on intermediate risk markers. We also review possible mechanisms underlying the alcohol-breast cancer association.

27 February 2017 In Social and Cultural Aspects

BACKGROUND: Alcohol warning labels have a limited effect on drinking behavior, potentially because people devote minimal attention to them. We report findings from two studies in which we measured the extent to which alcohol consumers attend to warning labels on alcohol packaging, and aimed to identify if increased attention to warning labels is associated with motivation to change drinking behavior.

METHODS: Study 1 (N = 60) was an exploratory cross-sectional study in which we used eye-tracking to measure visual attention to brand and health information on alcohol and soda containers. In study 2 (N = 120) we manipulated motivation to reduce drinking using an alcohol brief intervention (vs control intervention) and measured heavy drinkers' attention to branding and warning labels with the same eye-tracking paradigm as in study 1. Then, in a separate task we experimentally manipulated attention by drawing a brightly colored border around health (or brand) information before measuring participants' self-reported drinking intentions for the subsequent week.

RESULTS: Study 1 showed that participants paid minimal attention to warning labels (7% of viewing time). Participants who were motivated to reduce drinking paid less attention to alcohol branding and alcohol warning labels. Results from study 2 showed that the alcohol brief intervention decreased attention to branding compared to the control condition, but it did not affect attention to warning labels. Furthermore, the experimental manipulation of attention to health or brand information did not influence drinking intentions for the subsequent week.

CONCLUSIONS: Alcohol consumers allocate minimal attention to warning labels on alcohol packaging and even if their attention is directed to these warning labels, this has no impact on their drinking intentions. The lack of attention to warning labels, even among people who actively want to cut down, suggests that there is room for improvement in the content of health warnings on alcohol packaging.

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