The Alcohol Research UK annual conference recently took place at the Wellcome Conference Centre in London on 12th March, exploring Alcohol and British Society.
Health and Inequalities
Professor Mark Bellis’s presentation explained how the poorest 20% of people in Britain suffered twice the levels of alcohol related harm as the most affluent 20% – despite reporting similar levels of alcohol consumption. Researchers call this the “alcohol harm paradox”. Professor Bellis from Liverpool John Moores University, examined some of the ways this can happen. He showed how the same weekly consumption of alcohol can result in different levels of injury and disease depending on whether the alcohol is consumed a little each night or in just one or two heavier drinking sessions. He also examined how the equivalent of 360 million shots of spirits a week were unaccounted for in national surveys of what people reported drinking and why these “hidden drinks” may be part of the explanation for the alcohol harm paradox.
Professor Bellis said, “There are a number of possible explanations for why similar amounts of alcohol appear to cause much greater harm in poorer communities. These include differences in drinking patterns, hidden alcohol consumption and a cumulative health impact from poor diet, housing and other health challenges that leave people more vulnerable to the damages alcohol causes.”
Developmental Epidemiology and Prevention
Professor David Foxcroft, Oxford Brookes University, discussed programmes that have a demonstrable impact on social development in young people, in particular The Strengthening Families Programme and The Good Behaviour Game.
Professor Foxcroft suggested that community-oriented developmental prevention can have a significant impact on risk factors associated with drinking, but that we need a betters understanding of how prevention effects are moderated by other factors.
A Tale of Two Cities
Professor Jonathan Chick and Dr Jan Gill, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, presented new research which suggested that the heaviest drinkers and those with the greatest alcohol problems were most likely to be consuming drinks like white cider and cheap vodka. These were the sorts of drinks that delivered the largest amount of alcohol for the lowest price per unit. This implied that minimum unit pricing would have the greatest effect upon these drinks and thus upon problem drinking.
Digital Approaches to Alcohol Problems
Professor Paul Wallace (National Institute of Health Research and UCL) and Mr Stuart Linke (Camden Primary Care Trust and UCL) shared ten years of experience of the Down your Drink programme.
The conference also heard presentations from:
Professor Robin Davidson, Chair of Alcohol Research UK
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance
Professor the Baroness Finlay of Llandaff and Velindre NHS Trust