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      Regional alcohol consumption and alcohol-related mortality in Great Britain: novel insights using retail sales data


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          Regional differences in population levels of alcohol-related harm exist across Great Britain, but these are not entirely consistent with differences in population levels of alcohol consumption. This incongruence may be due to the use of self-report surveys to estimate consumption. Survey data are subject to various biases and typically produce consumption estimates much lower than those based on objective alcohol sales data. However, sales data have never been used to estimate regional consumption within Great Britain (GB). This ecological study uses alcohol retail sales data to provide novel insights into regional alcohol consumption in GB, and to explore the relationship between alcohol consumption and alcohol-related mortality.


          Alcohol sales estimates derived from electronic sales, delivery records and retail outlet sampling were obtained. The volume of pure alcohol sold was used to estimate per adult consumption, by market sector and drink type, across eleven GB regions in 2010–11. Alcohol-related mortality rates were calculated for the same regions and a cross-sectional correlation analysis between consumption and mortality was performed.


          Per adult consumption in northern England was above the GB average and characterised by high beer sales. A high level of consumption in South West England was driven by on-trade sales of cider and spirits and off-trade wine sales. Scottish regions had substantially higher spirits sales than elsewhere in GB, particularly through the off-trade. London had the lowest per adult consumption, attributable to lower off-trade sales across most drink types. Alcohol-related mortality was generally higher in regions with higher per adult consumption. The relationship was weakened by the South West and Central Scotland regions, which had the highest consumption levels, but discordantly low and very high alcohol-related mortality rates, respectively.


          This study provides support for the ecological relationship between alcohol-related mortality and alcohol consumption. The synthesis of knowledge from a combination of sales, survey and mortality data, as well as primary research studies, is key to ensuring that regional alcohol consumption, and its relationship with alcohol-related harms, is better understood.

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          Most cited references31

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          Do consequences of a given pattern of drinking vary by socioeconomic status? A mortality and hospitalisation follow-up for alcohol-related causes of the Finnish Drinking Habits Surveys.

          Socioeconomic differences in alcohol-related mortality and hospitalisations, as based on register data, are larger than socioeconomic differences in various types of harmful drinking, as based on survey data. The aim was to use a follow-up study to examine whether differential drinking patterns between socioeconomic groups explain the observed differences in alcohol-related mortality and hospitalisations, or whether similar drinking patterns predict higher mortality among lower socioeconomic groups. The study population included Finns who participated in cross-sectional surveys on drinking habits in 1969, 1976 or 1984 when aged 25-69 (n = 6406). They were followed up for alcohol-related mortality and hospitalisations (n = 180) for 16 years. Drinking patterns were measured by total consumption, frequency of subjective intoxication and of drinking different amounts of alcohol at a time, and by volume of consumption that was drunk in heavy drinking occasions and non-heavy drinking occasions. Compared with non-manual workers, manual workers had a 2.06-fold hazard of alcohol-related death or hospitalisation. Adjustment for drinking patterns explained only a small fraction of the excess hazard among manual workers. Additionally, in each category of total consumption and in each level of the volume drunk in heavy drinking occasions, the risk of alcohol-related death and hospitalisation was higher for manual than for non-manual workers. Consequences of similar drinking patterns are more severe for those with lower socioeconomic status. Future studies are needed to explain how higher socioeconomic groups manage to escape the consequences of drinking that others have to face.
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            The price of a drink: levels of consumption and price paid per unit of alcohol by Edinburgh's ill drinkers with a comparison to wider alcohol sales in Scotland

            Aim To compare alcohol purchasing and consumption by ill drinkers in Edinburgh with wider alcohol sales in Scotland. Design Cross-sectional. Setting Two hospitals in Edinburgh in 2008/09. Participants A total of 377 patients with serious alcohol problems; two-thirds were in-patients with medical, surgical or psychiatric problems due to alcohol; one-third were out-patients. Measurements Last week's or typical weekly consumption of alcohol: type, brand, units (1 UK unit 8 g ethanol), purchase place and price. Findings Patients consumed mean 197.7 UK units/week. The mean price paid per unit was £0.43 (lowest £0.09/unit) (£1 = 1.6 US$ or 1.2€), which is below the mean unit price, £0.71 paid in Scotland in 2008. Of units consumed, 70.3% were sold at or below £0.40/unit (mid-range of price models proposed for minimum pricing legislation by the Scottish Government), and 83% at or below £0.50/unit proposed by the Chief Medical Officer of England. The lower the price paid per unit, the more units a patient consumed. A continuous increase in unit price from lower to higher social status, ranked according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (based on postcode), was not seen; patients residing in postcodes in the mid-quintile paid the highest price per unit. Cheapness was quoted commonly as a reason for beverage choice; ciders, especially ‘white’ cider, and vodka were, at off-sales, cheapest per unit. Stealing alcohol or drinking alcohol substitutes was only very rarely reported. Conclusions Because patients with serious alcohol problems tend to purchase very cheap alcohol, elimination of the cheapest sales by minimum price or other legislation might reduce their consumption. It is unknown whether proposed price legislation in Scotland will encourage patients with serious alcohol problems to start stealing alcohol or drinking substitutes or will reduce the recruitment of new drinkers with serious alcohol problems and produce predicted longer-term gains in health and social wellbeing.
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              The temporal relationship between per capita alcohol consumption and harm: a systematic review of time lag specifications in aggregate time series analyses.

              Changes in per capita alcohol consumption are temporally linked to changes in rates of alcohol-related harm. Methodological approaches for analysing this relationship have been suggested, however, the problem of time lags is not well-addressed. This study provides a review of time lag specifications, looking at (a) time to first effect on harm, (b) time to full effect and (c) the functional form of the effect accumulation from first to full effect to inform modelling of the relationship between changes in aggregate alcohol consumption and changes in rates of harm. Bibliographic databases were searched and citation and reference checking was used to identify studies. Included studies were time series analyses of the relationship between aggregated population alcohol consumption and rates of alcohol-related harms where time lag specifications had been derived or tested. 36 studies were included with liver cirrhosis, heart disease and suicide dominating the evidence base. For a large number of alcohol-related harms, no literature was identified. There was strong evidence of an immediate first effect following a change in consumption for most harms. Recommended lag specifications are proposed for a set of alcohol-attributable harms. Research on time lag specifications is under-developed for most harms although we provide suggested specifications based on the findings of the review. Greater methodological attention needs to be given to the rationale for choosing or applying lag specifications and the inherent complexity of the time lag process. More consistent and transparent reporting of methodological decisions would aide progress in the field. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BioMed Central (London )
                7 January 2015
                : 15
                : 1
                [ ]Public Health Science Directorate, NHS Health Scotland, 5 Cadogan Street, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
                [ ]Glasgow Centre for Population Health, 94 Elmbank Street, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
                © Robinson et al.; licensee BioMed Central. 2015

                This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                : 17 July 2014
                : 31 October 2014
                Research Article
                Custom metadata
                © The Author(s) 2015

                Public health
                alcohol consumption,alcoholic beverages,public health,cross sectional studies
                Public health
                alcohol consumption, alcoholic beverages, public health, cross sectional studies


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