Higher quality of life seen among regular moderate drinkers than among abstainers

June 22, 2012

Data from a nationally representative sample of 5,404 community-dwelling Canadians ages 50 and older at baseline (1994/1995) was used to estimate the effects of alcohol drinking patterns on quality of life when subjects were aged =50 years and after a follow-up period. Health-related quality of life was assessed with the Health Utilities Index Mark 3 (HUI3). The authors report that most participants showed stable alcohol-consumption patterns over 6 years.

Detailed information was available on the participants alcohol consumption. were defined as those having 1 drinks per week with no more than 3 on any day for women and no more than 4 on any day for men. The repeated assessments allowed for the investigators to classify subjects according to changes over time in their drinking patterns, so that "persistent moderate drinkers" could be identified. 31.4% of the subjects decreased their intake over the follow-up period. The investigators also did secondary analyses among subjects who did not report any adverse (, cancer, stroke, or diabetes) during the first four years of follow up; these subjects were referred to as "consistently healthy."

Regular moderate drinkers had the highest indices of quality of life at baseline, but subsequent changes in quality of life indicators were similar in all groups except for those reporting decreasing alcohol consumption. The investigators conclude that regular moderate drinkers had higher initial levels of health-related quality of life than abstainers and those in other groups. However, rates of decline over time were similar for all groups except those decreasing their consumption from moderate levels, who showed a greater decline in their level of health-related quality of life than regular moderate users.

While Forum reviewers admired the intent of this study, there were concerns about some of the statistical and epidemiologic aspects. The reasons that some people stopped drinking or decreased their intake were not known; although they were 'consistently healthy' at baseline. Forum reviewer Harvey Finkel comments: "As people age, even disregarding medical obstacles, social interactions generally decrease, which leads to both less stimulation to drink and less opportunity to drink." It is thus important that the reasons that someone stops drinking, or decreases his or her intake, are taken into account.

Further, the "baseline" quality of life measures in this study were obtained when subjects were aged 50 or older; this baseline value of quality of life was higher in moderate drinkers. However, there are statistical problems if adjustments are made for this when quality of life is assessed subsequently and related to drinking pattern. Peto has described this problem as a "horse-racing effect." He states that in prospective studies, the correlation between exposures (e.g., drinking pattern) and outcomes (e.g., quality of life) assessments during follow up are likely to be the same as the outcome at the end of follow up. As an analogy he uses a race between 'slow' and 'fast' horses; it is likely that the fast horses will be ahead at the mid-point of the race as well as at the end. Environmental effects on quality of life begin early in life, and if one adjusts for the mid-life value (as done and referred to as "baseline" in the present study), you may end up disregarding much of the effect of subsequent alcohol intake.

Overall, this study shows a positive relation between regular moderate alcohol intake and quality of life in middle-aged adults. The effects on the subsequent as one ages of continued , or of decreasing intake, remain unclear.

Explore further: Study supports association of alcohol and diabetes

More information: Critique 083: Higher quality of life seen among regular moderate drinkers than among abstainers 20 June 2012

To read the full critique: www.bu.edu/alcohol-forum/criti … ainers-20-june-2012/

Reference: Kaplan MS, Huguet N, Feeny D, McFarland BH, Caetano R, Bernier J, Giesbrecht N, Oliver L, Ross N. Alcohol Use Patterns and Trajectories of Health-Related Quality of Life in Middle-Aged and Older Adults: A 14-Year Population-Based Study. J. Stud Alcohol Drugs 2012;73:581

Related Stories

Study supports association of alcohol and diabetes

March 29, 2012
Subjects in a cohort in Sweden, some of whom had been exposed to a community intervention program to prevent diabetes, were evaluated 8-10 years after baseline for the presence of diabetes mellitus or impaired glucose metabolism ...

Alcohol drinking in the elderly: Risks and benefits

June 27, 2011
The Royal College of Psychiatrists of London has published a report related primarily to problems of unrecognized alcohol misuse among the elderly. The report provides guidelines for psychiatrists and family physicians on ...

The effect of occasional binge drinking on heart disease and mortality among moderate drinkers

February 2, 2012
Most studies have found that binge drinking is associated with a loss of alcohol's protective effect against ischemic heart disease (IHD) and most studies have found an increase of coronary risk among binge drinkers.

Relation of alcohol consumption to colorectal cancer

September 13, 2011
A meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies on the association of alcohol consumption with colorectal cancer was carried out, based on 22 studies from Asia, 2 from Australia, 13 from Western Europe, and 24 from North ...

Recommended for you

Findings link aldosterone with alcohol use disorder

July 18, 2017
A new study led by scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, demonstrates that aldosterone, a hormone produced in the adrenal glands, may contribute ...

Depression among young teens linked to cannabis use at 18

July 17, 2017
A study looking at the cumulative effects of depression in youth, found that young people with chronic or severe forms of depression were at elevated risk for developing a problem with cannabis in later adolescence.

Why does prenatal alcohol exposure increase the likelihood of addiction?

July 7, 2017
One of the many negative consequences when fetuses are exposed to alcohol in the womb is an increased risk for drug addiction later in life. Neuroscientists in the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions are ...

Researchers say U.S. policies on drugs and addiction could use a dose of neuroscience

June 23, 2017
Tens of thousands of Americans die from drug overdoses every year – around 50,000 in 2015 – and the number has been steadily climbing for at least the last decade and a half, according to the National Institute on Drug ...

Study provides further support for genetic factors underlying addictions

June 13, 2017
Impairment of a particular gene raises increases susceptibility to opioid addiction liability as well as vulnerability to binge eating according to a new study.

From pill to needle: Prescription opioid epidemic may be increasing drug injection

May 8, 2017
The prescription opioid epidemic is shrinking the time it used to take drug users to progress to drug injection, a new Keck School of Medicine of USC-led study suggests.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

A2G
not rated yet Jun 22, 2012
I'll drink to that.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.