Gartner A, Trefan L, Moore S, Akbari A, Paranjothy S, Farewell D.
BMC Public Health (2019) 19: 1651
Alcohol-related harm has been found to be higher in disadvantaged groups, despite similar alcohol consumption to advantaged groups. This is known as the alcohol harm paradox. Beverage type is reportedly socioeconomically patterned but has not been included in longitudinal studies investigating record-linked alcohol consumption and harm. We aimed to investigate whether and to what extent consumption by beverage type, BMI, smoking and other factors explain inequalities in alcohol-related harm.
11,038 respondents to the Welsh Health Survey answered questions on their health and lifestyle. Responses were record-linked to wholly attributable alcohol-related hospital admissions (ARHA) eight years before the survey month and until the end of 2016 within the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank. We used survival analysis, specifically multi-level and multi-failure Cox mixed effects models, to calculate the hazard ratios of ARHA. In adjusted models we included the number of units consumed by beverage type and other factors, censoring for death or moving out of Wales.
People living in more deprived areas had a higher risk of admission (HR 1.75; 95% CI 1.23–2.48) compared to less deprived. Adjustment for the number of units by type of alcohol consumed only reduced the risk of ARHA for more deprived areas by 4% (HR 1.72; 95% CI 1.21–2.44), whilst adding smoking and BMI reduced these inequalities by 35.7% (HR 1.48; 95% CI 1.01–2.17). These social patterns were similar for individual-level social class, employment, housing tenure and highest qualification. Inequalities were further reduced by including either health status (16.6%) or mental health condition (5%). Unit increases of spirits drunk were positively associated with increasing risk of ARHA (HR 1.06; 95% CI 1.01–1.12), higher than for other drink types.
Although consumption by beverage type was socioeconomically patterned, it did not help explain inequalities in alcohol-related harm. Smoking and BMI explained around a third of inequalities, but lower socioeconomic groups had a persistently higher risk of (multiple) ARHA. Comorbidities also explained a further proportion of inequalities and need further investigation, including the contribution of specific conditions. The increased harms from consumption of stronger alcoholic beverages may inform public health policy.