Page last updated: April 20, 2015
Worsening of health and a cessation or reduction in alcohol consumption to special occasion drinking across three decades of the life course

Ex-drinkers suffer from worse health than drinkers; however, whether a deterioration of health is associated with a change in drinking status from early adulthood has not been previously investigated. This study assessed whether a worsening of health is associated with a cessation in consumption or reduction to special occasion drinking from early adulthood to middle age.

The study included participants from Great Britain followed longitudinally in the National Child Development Study from ages 23 to 33 (N = 5,529), 42 (N = 4,787), and 50 (N = 4,476). Multinomial logistic regression was used to assess whether a change in self-reported limiting longstanding illness (LLI) was associated with ceasing alcohol consumption, or a reduction to special occasion drinking compared with being a persistent drinker from age 23 in separate models at ages 33, 42, and 50. All models were adjusted for sex, poor psychosocial health, education, marital status, and children in the household.

The results indicate that developing an LLI from the previous wave was associated with ceasing alcohol consumption at ages 33 (odds ratio [ORs] = 2.71, 95% confidence interval), 42 (OR = 2.44), and 50 (OR = 3.332) and a reduction to special occasion drinking at ages 42 (OR = 2.04,) and 50 (OR = 2.04). Having a persistent LLI across 2 waves increased the odds of ceasing consumption at ages 42 (OR = 3.22) and 50 (OR = 4.03) and reducing consumption to special occasion drinking at ages 33 (OR = 3.27) and 42 (OR = 2.25). Persistent drinkers at older ages had the best overall health suffering less from previous poor health compared with those who reduced or ceased consumption at an earlier time point.

Developing an LLI was associated with a cessation in alcohol consumption and a reduction in consumption to special occasion drinking from early adulthood. Persistent drinkers who drank at least till 50 were the healthiest overall. Health selection is likely to influence nondrinking across the life course, the authors conclude.

Source: Worsening of health and a cessation or reduction in alcohol consumption to special occasion drinking across three decades of the life course. Ng Fat L; Cable N; Shelton N Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research Vol 39, No 1, 2015, pp166-174.

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