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Researchers explain ‘alcohol harm paradox’

Researchers explain ‘alcohol harm paradox’


Source: The Spirits Business

by Melita Kiely

18th February, 2016


New research explains why deprived communities have higher levels of alcohol-related illnesses than those in non-deprived areas, despite drinking the same amounts of alcohol.


The study – a collaboration between Bangor University, Liverpool John Moores University and Alcohol Research UK – was published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.


It aims to explain the “alcohol harm paradox”, and found that people who drink more alcohol and live in poorer communities are at greater risk of mixing drinking with other “health damaging behaviours”, compared to those living in richer areas.


As a result, these actions increase the risks of developing alcohol-related illnesses.


“This research highlights the importance of wider social, economic and behavioural factors in understanding alcohol related harm,” said James Nicholls, from Alcohol Research UK.


“It suggests that health risks from alcohol are much greater when combined with smoking, poor diet and low levels of physical activity.


“This information is important for individual lifestyle choices, but also for tackling the broader problem of health inequalities.


“Better awareness of how broader health behaviours exacerbate alcohol-related health harms is invaluable, but addressing the ‘harm paradox’ also means targeting the structural issues that can make healthier choices harder for people in deprived communities.”


The researchers revealed that people living in deprived areas who consumed alcohol “levels consistent with increased risks to health” were almost 11 times more likely than those living in more affluent areas to smoke, gain excess weight, eat a poor diet and partake in little exercise.


This was true for men who consumed more than 21 units of alcohol per week and women who exceeded 14 units each week.


In richer areas, 66.9% of alcohol drinkers were found to have at least one other health risk behaviour, but this was significantly higher in deprived regions where 83.2% demonstrated at least one additional health risk.


“About 9% of increased risk drinkers surveyed in poorer communities also smoked, were overweight and had unhealthy lifestyles,” said Mark Bellis, one of the researchers from Bangor University.


“Together these combinations can create enormous stresses on people’s bodies, overwhelming their ability to limit the health harms caused by alcohol.


“In affluent areas less then 1% of people drinking at increased risk levels also reported all three other health risks.”