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Social status link to alcohol heart risks

Wednesday January 3rd, 2018

The hazards of excessive alcohol consumption may apply more strongly to people in lower socioeconomic groups, according to a new analysis.

The Norwegian research offers new insights into the complex relationship between alcohol consumption and cardiovascular disease.

Dr Eirik Degerud of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, and colleagues, took information from three large survey studies based in Norway, including 207,394 participants. Over the roughly 17 years of follow-up there were 8,435 deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Analysis showed that, compared to drinking less than once a month, those who drank two to three times a week had a 22% reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease. This apparently protective effect seemed to be most beneficial for those in the highest socioeconomic positions.

Very frequent consumption of alcohol - four to seven times per week - was linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular mortality - but only among people in the lowest socioeconomic position.

Writing in yesterday's (2 January) PLoS Medicine, the authors conclude: "Moderately frequent consumers had a lower risk of cardiovascular mortality compared with infrequent consumers, and we observed that this association was more pronounced among participants with higher socioeconomic position throughout their life course.

"Frequent binge drinking was associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular mortality, but it was more uncertain whether the risk differed by life course socioeconomic position.

“It is unclear if these findings reflect differential confounding of alcohol consumption with health-protective or damaging exposures, or differing effects of alcohol on health across socioeconomic groups.

"The heterogeneity between groups in the population needs to be assessed when making population recommendations regarding alcohol consumption."

Degerud, E. et al. Life course socioeconomic position, alcohol drinking patterns in midlife, and cardiovascular mortality: Analysis of Norwegian population-based health surveys. PLoS Medicine 2 January 2018; doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002476 [abstract]

Tags: Drug & Alcohol Abuse | Europe | Heart Health

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