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Tuesday, 23 March 2010 00:37

Heavy alcohol use leads to poor health habits


According to a Kaiser Permanente study performed in the United States, men and women who are frequent and heavy drinkers of alcohol have much worse health-care related habits and practices when compared to people who are light and moderate drinkers. However, there is good news for moderate drinkers.


The research study, performed by scientists at the Center for Health Research (which is part of Kaiser Permanente), was published in the journal Addiction Research & Theory.

The researchers, lead by Permanente Center for Health Research senior researcher Carla A. Green, studied 7,884 people, between the ages of 18 and 64 years, within a health plan provided by Kaiser Permanente Northwest, which is located in the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington.

Approximately two years of participants' health records were used in the study. In addition, the participants received mail surveys between the years of 2002 and 2003.

The mailed survey asked questions such as their willingness to use health-care professionals, their drinking habits, and their quality of physical and mental health.

The participants, who were found to be frequent and heavy drinkers, were divided into three alcohol-related risk groups:

'¢    Men and women who drank three or more drinks per day,
'¢    Men who consumed five or more drinks at a time and women who drank four or more drinks at a time, and
'¢    Men and women who were generally classified as 'at-risk drinkers.'

Page two continues with the conclusion of the study, along with comments from Dr. Green.


The study concluded that more frequent, heavier drinkers have worse health care habits than people who drink less frequently and consumed smaller amounts of alcohol.

Specifically, Dr. Green stated, "The main finding here is that risky drinkers also engage in other behaviors--such as relieving stress with alcohol and cigarettes, not wearing seatbelts, unhealthy eating and not regularly seeing their doctors--that put their health at risk.' [EurekAlert.com (3.22.2010): 'Risky drinkers less likely to take good care of themselves and seek medical care']

She advises that, 'Physicians should not only be concerned about patients' heavy drinking, but also these other health-related practices." [EurekAlert]

Green also stated, "Our study found that men and women who drank the most had less collaborative relationships with their doctors and were more likely to dislike going to the doctor. They were also less confident they could change their own health-related practices and more likely to think health is a matter of good fortune." [EurekAlert]

The EurekAlert article goes on to state some information concluded within the study about moderate alcohol intake. It states, 'While the study clearly showed a negative relationship between health and daily, heavy drinking, it also found that moderate drinking was associated with better health.'

And, 'In fact, on a standard health status survey, people who drank one-to-three drinks daily reported slightly better health than all other categories of drinkers, including life-long abstainers, former drinkers, light drinkers (less than one drink a day) and heavier drinkers (three or more drinks per day)."

Page three concludes with comments with another author of the study--Dr. Michael Polen--with respect to moderate drinking and overall health.



The EurekAlert article continues with: "People who drank moderately were also more likely to have better health-related attitudes and practices, and more likely to seek routine medical care.'

Dr. Michael Polen, another researchers within the study, made the following comment within the EurekAlert article: "Even after taking these other health-related attitudes and practices into account, there was still a small but independent relationship between moderate drinking and better self-assessed health."

And, "Previous research has linked moderate alcohol drinking with cardiovascular benefits, so that might be the underlying reason moderate drinkers report better health. It's also possible that there are additional factors we didn't measure that account for this positive relationship."

The researchers involved in the study and the paper are: Carla A. Green, Michael R. Polen, Shannon L. Janoff, and Nancy A. Perrin (all from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research); Michael C. Leo (from the Oregon Health and Science University); Bradley M. Anderson (from Addiction Medicine, Kaiser Permanente Northwest); and Constance M. Weisner (from the University of California and Kaiser Permanente Division of Research)




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