Study finds poorest of us at greater risk of harm from heavy drinking.

Drinking heavily is more harmful to the poorest people in society, who are at greater risk of illness or death because of alcohol consumption, according to a recent medical study. Published in medical journal The Lancet Public Health on Wednesday, it found there is a marked link between socio-economic status and the harm caused by drinking alcohol excessively.

Researchers taking part in the study found increased alcohol consumption was “disproportionately harmful” to the poorest in society. Compared with light drinkers in advantaged areas, excessive drinkers were seven times at risk of an increase in alcohol harm.

This contrasted with excessive drinkers in deprived areas, who were 11 times at risk of an increase. Harmful impacts of alcohol are higher in socio-economically disadvantaged communities. However, until now it was unclear whether those were as a result of
differences in drinking or as a result of other factors.

Lead author Dr Vittal Katikireddi, of the University of Glasgow, said:

“Our study finds that the poorest in society are at greater risk of alcohol’s harmful impacts on health, but this is not because they are drinking more or more often binge drinking.

“Experiencing poverty may impact on health, not only through leading an unhealthy lifestyle but also as a direct consequence of poor material circumstances and psychosocial stresses. Poverty may, therefore, reduce resilience to disease, predisposing people to greater health harms of alcohol.

The authors linked different sets of data to bring together information from Scottish Health Surveys with electronic health records, studying more than 50,000 people.
It suggested that even when other factors are accounted for, including smoking and obesity, living in deprived areas was consistently associated with higher alcohol-related harms. Researchers defined harm from alcohol consumption based on deaths, hospital visits and prescriptions that were attributable to alcohol.

Study co-author Dr Elise Whitley said:

“Heavier drinking is associated with greater alcohol-related harm in all individuals. However, our study suggests that the harm is greater in those living in poorer areas or who have a lower income, fewer qualifications or a manual occupation.

Responding to the study published on Wednesday in The Lancet Public Health which found that drinking heavily is more harmful to the poorest people in society. Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA), said:

“The findings in this study are worrying if not altogether surprising. It is clear that the way alcohol is being sold and promoted in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK is harming some of the most vulnerable people in society. On the other hand, we know what needs to be done, in particular to tackle the scourge of cheap alcohol. In real terms, alcohol is 60% cheaper than it was in 1980 and measures like strength based pricing would disproportionately benefit the poorest groups, in terms of reduced deaths, illness and hospital admissions.

Studies have shown that 82% of the lives saved through minimum unit pricing would come from the lowest income groups. Overall, in the first year alone minimum unit pricing in Scotland is expected to save 60 lives and lead to 1,600 fewer hospital admissions and 3,500 fewer crimes, yet its introduction has been held up for years by alcohol industry legal challenges.

Importantly, minimum unit pricing would leave pub prices untouched, and moderate drinkers would spend only about £2.25 extra per year with a 50p minimum price.”

This is even more evidence of the Alcohol Harm Paradox, which refers to observations that lower socioeconomic status (SES) groups consume less alcohol but experience more alcohol-related problems. However, SES is a complex concept and its observed relationship to social problems often depends on how it is measured and the demographic groups studied. A study published in 2016 hoped to deconstruct this idea and assessed socioeconomic patterns of alcohol consumption and related harm using multiple measures of SES and examined moderation of this patterning by gender and age. You can read the research article here: Deconstructing the Alcohol Harm Paradox: A Population Based Survey of Adults in England



Citation of original research article:

Socioeconomic status as an effect modifier of alcohol consumption and harm: analysis of linked cohort data. 

Dr Srinivasa Vittal Katikireddi, Elise Whitley, Jim Lewsey, Linsay Gray, Prof Alastair H Leyland. Published: 10 May 2017 – Open Access DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30078-6


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Over 200,000 children in England are living with Dependent Drinkers!

New figures released today reveal that over 200,000 children in England are living with dependent drinkers who could benefit from receiving specialist alcohol treatment.

The data from Public Health England estimates that there are 600,000 dependent drinkers who would benefit from treatment, yet only just over 100,000 are currently receiving the help they need.

These figures only cover adults who are most seriously dependent on alcohol. It is currently estimated that around 1.5 million adults in England and Wales have some form of alcohol dependence, and that there are 2.5 million children living with an adult drinking at risky levels.

The PHE data is released alongside a report from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) focused on improving the life chances and job prospects of the least well-off. The Department has said it will increase access to grant funding and introduce peer mentors for those in alcohol treatment to help them get back into work.

The report comes at a time when politicians are increasingly recognising the harm cheap alcohol is doing to the most vulnerable in society. The March budget included a consultation on the introduction of a new tax band designed to increase the price of strong white cider, a product which is predominantly consumed by children and heavy drinkers.

And earlier today a report published by the House of Lords Licensing Committee following an enquiry into the operation of the 2003 Licensing Act recognised the damage being done by cheap alcohol. The report calls for the introduction of a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol across the UK if it is introduced in Scotland and proves to be successful. Its introduction is being stalled by legal action being taken by sections of the alcohol industry. The report also calls for an end to multi-buy deals such as three for the price of two, a measure which has proved to be successful in Scotland.

Alcohol health experts welcomed the measures announced by the DWP today and the focus on the most vulnerable and lowest paid, pointing to studies which have shown that the least well off are around five times more likely to die from alcohol-related causes than those at the top of the income bracket.

Experts also called, however, for a wider, population-level approach to improving life and employment opportunities for dependent drinkers alongside greater support for individuals.

Liver physician Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA), said:

“We welcome the Government’s recognition that cheap alcohol is damaging some of the most vulnerable groups in society. The revelation that 200,000 children in England are living with adults in need of specialist help is deeply worrying. We need to make sure people get the support they need once they have a problem with alcohol, for their own sakes and for the sake of their children. But people don’t set out to become dependent drinkers and we need to stop more people from reaching that stage.

“For the greatest impact, the measures announced today should be combined with
measures like minimum unit pricing of alcohol. Studies have shown that setting a minimum price for alcohol would reduce unemployment and bring substantial numbers of unemployed drinkers back into the workforce.

“The government is already taking steps to tackle alcohol dependence in this broader way, with the recent announcement that it will be consulting on increasing the tax on high- strength ciders, drinks which are known to be drunk by the most vulnerable and do disproportionate harm.

“Studies also indicate that MUP would help address health inequalities, with over 80 per cent of lives saved coming from the lowest income groups. At the same time, the measure would not increase the price of alcohol sold in pubs and clubs.”

The Public Health England figures can be found here.
The DWP report, entitled Improving Lives: helping workless families, is available here.


About the Alcohol Health Alliance UK
The Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) is a group of 50 organisations including the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of GPs, British Medical Association, Alcohol Concern and the Institute of Alcohol Studies. The AHA works together to:
– Highlight the rising levels of alcohol-related health harm
– Propose evidence-based solutions to reduce this harm
– Influence decision makers to take positive action to address the damage caused by alcohol misuse

Congratulations to Suzi Gage for winning the AAAS Early Career Public Engagement Award!

Suzanne Gage, a scientist whose podcast, “Say Why To Drugs,” has received over 264,000 listens, has been chosen by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to receive the 2016 Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science.

screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-09-32-03Gage recently completed her post-doctoral research in the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol, and is now a scientist at the University of Liverpool. She also founded “Sifting the Evidence,” a blog on The Guardian’s website in which she examines epidemiology, mental health and substance abuse. She is being honored by AAAS for “her evidence-based approach to public engagement activities and targeting audiences who may not be actively seeking science information.”

Gage is a “highly talented, enthusiastic and energetic young researcher who promises to be a real star of the future,” wrote Marcus Munafò, a professor of biological psychology at the University of Bristol, where Gage was a post-doctoral research associate until December. Through her blog and podcast, Munafò wrote, “Suzi has worked tirelessly to provide information to the general public about the scientific evidence surrounding the effects of recreational drugs.”

Her podcast, which she was inspired to produce after appearing on rapper Scroobius Pip’s podcast, discusses a different recreational drug in each episode. Gage aims to counter misinformation and myths surrounding various substances. Munafò noted that Pip’s involvement in the podcast has helped Gage reach an audience of young adults who might not otherwise receive the information. Pip emphasized that the program is not meant to condone drug use.

“This is not a pro-drugs podcast, this is not anti-drugs podcast,” Pip explained, “this is pro-truth and anti-myth.”

The podcast has topped the Science and Medicine chart in the iTunes store and has received support on Twitter, including from Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. It also won the Skeptic Magazine 2016 Ockham Award for Best Podcast. Munafò wrote that the show has also been used by teachers to introduce their students to evidence-based thinking.

Gage has also traveled across the United Kingdom, speaking at “Skeptics in the Pub,” evening events hosted by local organizations to promote critical thinking. She has spoken at the Royal Institution of Great Britain and music festivals in the UK.

She engaged with younger audiences in 2011 by participating in “I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here,” an online event where students meet and interact with scientists. The scientists compete with one other, answering questions about science and their research that are provided by students, who then vote for their favorite scientist. Gage won in the “Brain Zone” category and used the winnings to start her podcast.

Gage’s work in public engagement was recognized in 2012, when she won the UK Science Blog Prize, and in 2013, when she received the British Association for Psychopharmacology Public Communication Award. She has also written for The Economist, The Telegraph and The Lancet Psychiatry.

Gage’s recent scientific work in studying the relationship between health behaviors and mental health outcomes has included investigating causal associations from observational studies, with particular emphasis on substance use and mental health. She earned a Master of Science degree in cognitive neuropsychology from University College London in 2005 and a Ph.D. in translational epidemiology from the University of Bristol in 2014. Her research also earned her the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Travel Award in 2012. More recently, she received the Society for Research in Nicotine and Tobacco’s 2015 Basic Science Network Travel Award.

The AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science was established in 2010 to recognize “early-career scientists and engineers who demonstrate excellence in their contribution to public engagement with science activities.” The recipient receives a monetary prize of $5,000, a commemorative plaque, complimentary registration to the AAAS Annual Meeting and reimbursement for reasonable travel and hotel expenses to attend the AAAS Annual Meeting to receive the prize.

The award will be bestowed upon Gage during the 183rd AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, Feb. 16-20, 2017. The AAAS Awards Ceremony and Reception will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17, in the Republic Ballroom of the Sheraton Boston Hotel.

images-duckduckgo-comSuzanne Gage completed her post-doctoral research at the University of Bristol and is now a scientist at the University of Liverpool. She has written for The GuardianThe Economist, The Telegraph and The Lancet Psychiatry.

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Thinking about Drinking: A Year in the Life of an Alcohol Researcher at Stirling

Niamh was active in helping the media understand the implications of theniamhfitzgerald 2016 new alcohol guidelines. In this blog post she discusses what happened as a result of the publication of the new guidelines and how the media portray the facts in their own way.

By Niamh Fitzgerald, Research Profile, @NiamhCreate

Journalists love a good alcohol story, especially at this time of year, and January 2016 gave them the ideal ammunition with the publication of new advice from the UK’s Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) designed to provide people with ‘accurate information and clear advice about alcohol and its health risks’.  For the first time, the guidance advised that ‘no level of regular drinking can be considered completely safe’ and advised the same limit for both men and women – not to regularly drink above 14 units of alcohol (about 1 and a half bottles of wine) per week, at the same time moving away from the previous daily limits.  The guidance was based on a lengthy process involving experts from around the UK including Prof. Gerard Hastings (from Stirling) and followed emerging evidence on the links between alcohol and cancer – kicking off a furore of media coverage.

Media coverage following the publication of the new guidelines

The Daily Mail led with the news that the guidelines would ‘put a stop to the belief that red wine is good for you in moderation, while the Sun also focused on this ‘plonk lovers’ shock’ as the CMO’s ‘rubbished’ the supposed health benefits of wine.

alcohol-daily-mail

Others focused on the cancer risk, with the Scotsman leading with ‘drinkers at risk of cancer from single glass of wine’; whereas the Telegraph headline was ‘health chiefs attacked for nanny state alcohol guidelines’.  It was a frantic week for colleagues and I at the Institute for Social Marketing (ISM) as we sought to capture all of the newspaper, television and radio coverage for future analysis.  As Lecturer in Alcohol Studies at ISM, and lead for teaching and public engagement on alcohol for the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKCTAS), I was interviewed about the new guidelines on BBC News for their ‘Ask This’ feature, which takes questions from viewers.  I also had a comment piece published in The Scotsman. Continue reading

How does social context affect people’s drinking patterns in Scotland | GCU | Video Report

The Substance Use and Misuse Research Group at Glasgow Caledonian University is examining Scotland’s relationship with alcohol and developing interventions to reduce harm.

A UK-wide team of researchers from the University of Bedfordshire, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glyndwr University Wales and Queens University Belfast, found hidden harm among the over 50s, poor use of available services, little knowledge of safe drinking levels, and stigma.

The survey into the drinking behaviours of more than 16,700 people across the UK found that a sense of shame might prevent older drinkers from asking for help to reduce their alcohol use. One in four respondents said they would not know where to go for help, nor would they tell anyone if they needed it.

Visit: Scottish health action on alcohol Problems

 

LGBT STUDY: The social context of LGBT people’s drinking in Scotland

Dr Carol Emslie, Ms Jemma Lennox and Dr Lana Ireland

ECR Conference 13/07 – Final sessions and round up!


Dealing with supervisors – Andy Jones (Psychological Sciences, University of Liverpool) 

Andy gave a telling and sometimes humorous talk on supervisors and how to work with them. He highlighted that the Postgraduate Research Experience survey found that supervision experience was rated by students as the most important part of their PhD, and 5 common themes emerged:

  1. Communication difficulties between student and supervisor
    2. Control – constant supervision controlling the direction of the PhD
    3. Academic bullying – supervisors showing superiority/abuse of student
    4. Desertion – moving jobs, ‘deserting’ the student
    5. Lack of trust – requesting data, using it and not acknowledging the student

Andy presented some pieces of advice from a blog post called ‘tough love’ by Chris Chambers in Cardiff (http://neurochambers.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/tough-love-insensitive-guide-to.html)

At supervisor meetings – watch your

  • time management (supervisors are busy)
  • be clear in what you want
  • keep detailed notes of the meetings
  • be assertive (standing up for what you are and want without harming others), not aggressive (largely harming others)
  • use local (other PhD students) and wider support networks

Here are some useful online resources:

www.thesiswhisperer.com
www.postgraduateforum.com
https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network
http://neurochambers.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/tough-love-insensitive-guide-to.html
http://www.kevinmorrell.org.uk/resources

More information: ajj@liv.ac.uk


The experience of obtaining a fellowship, inspiration, hints and tips!  – Dr Ilze Bogdanovica (Senior Research Fellow, University of Nottingham)

Ilze was awarded a Cancer Research UK fellowship in 2016.

The benefits of her fellowship?
6 years, more stability, opportunity to develop career in the right direction, a step to becoming an independent researcher.

What makes a successful application?
Timing – in this case several tobacco control policies being implemented in recent times, therefore an evaluation of such policies was timely
Topic – must correspond with funder’s priority areas, which it did
Also the existence of support networks and senior investigators, if utilised by the fellow is a strong point in Fellowship applications.

The interview – make sure you:
Practice, practice, practice
Keep the language simple (avoid great jargon)
when preparing, ask others for their opinion
Practice mock interview
Be ready

At the interview, show passion, enthusiasm and confidence!

Ilze ended by emphasising – ‘it’s hard but worth it!’


UKCTAS Communication Strategies – Chris Hill (UKCTAS Digital Media & Centre Support Officer, University of Nottingham)

Chris gave a fascinating talk on media coverage and how best to utilise media such as Facebook, twitter and general internet resources and support networks, reminding those present too update him of any work they need disseminating to the wider network.

Did you know people spend on average at least 34 minutes watching/listening to news coverage every day? Most of which is consumed on a smart phone/device.


Overseas research collaborations case study: UK-Uruguay Tobacco and Alcohol Research Network – Graeme Docherty (Research Coordinator, University of Nottingham)

Graeme summarised a British Council sponsored workshop which take took place in Uruguay earlier in 2016 and for which new collaborations have started.

A research network has been created and more information on this and potential future areas of work is at www.ukctas.net/u-tarn.html

UKCTAS Early Career Researcher Day – 13/07/2016

Within UKCTAS we have a large number of researchers who are in the early stages of their career. One of the main objectives of the centre is to engage, recruit, train and develop new researchers. It is for this reason that the ECR group meet a few times every year to discuss the work of individual researchers in alcohol, tobacco and e-cigarette research.

The most recent meeting on the 13th July 2016 was a great success, with updates from individuals and information for academics who’re looking to forward their career in this area of research.

Firstly, we had presentations by Amy Fuller (Nottingham), Jay Duckworth (Liverpool) and David Troy (Bristol) updating us on the work happening at their institutions.

Nottingham
Current studies include:

  • National Institute for Health research funded ‘Hospital to Homes’ trial to help smokers remain abstinent following leaving hospital.
  • Evaluation of tobacco control policy, through a DH Policy Research Programme funded grant and a Cancer Research UK fellowship, both recently awarded.
  • Cancer Research UK funded evaluation of e-cigarette users and shop services in the East Midlands.
  • PhD work includes
    – assessing the implementation of tobacco dependent treatment policies internationally
    – assessing an anti-tobacco intervention within child residential homes for children
    – exploring patterns and perceptions of university student drinking
    – assessing the hazardous effects of alcohol on cancer
    – epidemiology of alcohol use

A new Peer Support Group will be established in September 2016, which will support and advise PhD students and junior researchers.
More information- graeme.docherty@nottingham.ac.uk

Liverpool
This group specialises in the psychological basis of alcohol use.
Recently completed and published work includes:

  • assessing whether attentional bias is clinically relevant and, if so, how best to measure it
  • assessing whether brief personalised interventions help cut alcohol intake in students
  • how we can effectively train peoples’ behaviour and even cognitive biases in order to help them cut down on harmful behaviours such as excessive alcohol use.

More information – j.duckworth@liverpool.ac.uk

Bristol
This group are conducting the following work:

  • investigating the effects of glass shape on liquid volume requirements – findings show that users are underestimating volumes in curved glasses as opposed to straight glasses
  • investigating the effect of accurate volume information on alcohol consumption
  • investigating the effect of nucleation (where gaseous substances such as CO2 are released) on the drinking experience of lager – findings show that greater gaseous release appears to make the drink more physically appealing
  • conducting eye tracking experiment to measure attention to health warnings after changing the features of these warnings.
  • looking at the impact of unit & calorie labelling on alcohol consumption, craving & drink enjoyment.

More information – david.troy@bristol.ac.uk

Read more here!