Report conducted at the University of Sheffield provides ‘clear and compelling’ new evidence on the effectiveness of minimum unit pricing.

Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

alcoholThe report, published by the Foundation for Liver Research, predicts that 32,475 of the deaths – the equivalent of 35 a day – will be the result of liver cancer and another 22,519 from alcoholic liver disease.

In its new report, Financial case for action on liver disease, endorsed by the independent Lancet Commission on Liver Disease, the Foundation for Liver Research urges the Government to implement a suite of policy measures designed to mitigate the rising health and financial burden of alcohol, including the introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP), re-institution of alcohol duty escalator and advertising restrictions.

  • Between 2017 and 2022 the total cost to the NHS of alcohol-related illness and deaths will be £17 billion.
  • Study shows introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol could significantly reduce the burden.

Providing evidence in support of Government intervention, new modelling shows that within five years of its introduction in England, a 50p MUP alone would result in:

  • ian gilmore quote21,150 fewer alcohol-related deaths
  • 74,500 fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions
  • Savings of £325.7m in healthcare costs
  • Savings of £710.9m in crime costs

The total financial savings to the public purse of MUP is forecast to be £1.1 billion – the equivalent cost of the Government’s recently announced investment package for Northern Ireland.

Colin Angus, Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield and part of the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group who conducted the research, said:

“These new findings show there will be 35 deaths and 2,300 hospital admissions due to alcohol every day in England over the next five years. We estimate this will cost the NHS £17 billion at a time when healthcare resources are already overstretched. Our research also shows that policies such as Minimum Unit Pricing have the potential to significantly reduce this burden.”

Liver disease is one of Britain’s biggest killers, claiming about 12,000 lives a year in England alone. The number of deaths associated with it has risen by 400% since 1970. It is estimated that 62,000 years of working life are lost every year as a result of it. People who develop serious liver problems also suffer some of the worst health outcomes in western Europe.

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Kettil Bruun Society 43rd Annual Alcohol Symposium | Sheffield 5-9th June, 2017

The 43rd annual symposium of the Kettil Bruun Society is hosted by the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) at the University of Sheffield. The symposium will be held in the Inox Dine area of the Student’s Union building.

For information about the Kettil Bruun Society, the Symposium, and to register, submit abstracts and book social tours, please click here.

To go straight to registration, please click here.

The conference is generously supported by the Insitute for Alcohol Studies, Alcohol Research UK, and the Society for the Study of Addiction.

The Kettil Bruun Society (KBS):

The principal aims of the Kettil Bruun Society (KBS) are to investigate social, epidemiological and cross-cultural research on alcohol use, to promote the exchange of scientific knowledge and experiences among researchers from various disciplines and to encourage international collaboration. The comparison of social and epidemiological developments found in different countries makes it possible to disentangle major trends from underlying patterns of alcohol use. This is particularly useful for the development of effective strategies to regulate alcohol use – an aspect which is of great interest to many countries.

The Symposium:

The primary purpose of the symposium is to provide a forum for researchers involved in studies on alcohol to exchange ideas about their ongoing research. The scope of the symposium includes studies of determinants and consequences of drinking, drinking culture and drinking patterns, social and institutional responses to drinking related harms, prevention and care. Empirical research, theoretical papers and reviews of the literature are welcome. Social and epidemiological studies have to be interpreted in a broad context as they include research in a variety of disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, criminology, economics, history and other sciences. Papers on other forms of substance use such as tobacco and drugs are also accepted, particularly papers considering the way they relate to alcohol use.

The symposium focuses on the discussion of papers that are pre-circulated electronically on this website. The author introduces the paper in a 10-minute segment, followed by prepared comments from a discussant and general audience participation. Any person submitting a paper may be asked to be a discussant or chair of a session.

Abstracts:

Please submit an abstract by 20 January 2017. The word limit for the abstract is 250 words and you should also include a conflict of interest statement and a maximum of three keywords (these are not included in the word count). For reports of empirical research, the abstract should be structured into sections: introduction, methods, results and conclusion.

All abstracts must include a conflict of interest statement. This should identify any author who has a relationship (financial or otherwise) which could be viewed as presenting a potential conflict of interest and give a full disclosure of this relationship.  If there are no conflicts of interest to report, please write ‘None’.

If you know in advance that you will only be able to attend the conference on certain days then please use the option in the submission form to indicate this and we will try to accommodate you when scheduling sessions.

 

Are recent attempts to quit smoking associated with reduced drinking in England? | Research report

 

This study sought to address the following research questions:

  • What is the association among smokers in England between a recent attempt to quit smoking and alcohol consumption?
  • What is the association among smokers with higher risk alcohol consumption in England between a recent attempt to stop smoking and a current attempt to cut down on their drinking?

The researchers looked at the association among smokers in England between a recent attempt to quit smoking and alcohol consumption. They identified smokers as light or heavy drinkers (light was indicated with an Audit-C score below 5 and heavy was indicated with an Audit-C score greater than 5) and analysed their recent attempt to stop smoking (identified by those who had attempted to quit in the last week with those who had not) and a current attempt to cut down on their drinking.

This was an observational study which means that it cannot demonstrate cause and effect. It may be that smokers choose to restrict their alcohol consumption when attempting to quit smoking to reduce the chance of relapse. Alternatively, it could be that people who drink less are more likely to quit smoking. If this is the case, smokers with higher alcohol consumption may need further encouragement to quit smoking.

Jamie Brown said “We can’t yet determine the direction of causality. Further research is needed to disentangle whether attempts to quit smoking precede attempts to restrict alcohol consumption or vice versa. We’d also need to rule out other factors which make both more likely. Such as the diagnosis of a health problem causing attempts to cut down on both drinking and smoking.”

This study is part of an ongoing Smoking Toolkit Study and Alcohol Toolkit Study, designed to provide tracking information about smoking, alcohol consumption and related behaviors in England. Each month a new sample of approximately 1700 adults aged 16 and over complete a face-to-face computer assisted survey. The Smoking Toolkit Study and the Alcohol Toolkit Study are primarily funded by Cancer Research UK and the NIHR School for Public Health Research respectively.

Background

Alcohol consumption during attempts at smoking cessation can provoke relapse and so smokers are often advised to restrict their alcohol consumption during this time. This study assessed at a population-level whether smokers having recently initiated an attempt to stop smoking are more likely than other smokers to report i) lower alcohol consumption and ii) trying to reduce their alcohol consumption.

Method

Cross-sectional household surveys of 6287 last-year smokers who also completed the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test consumption questionnaire (AUDIT-C). Respondents who reported attempting to quit smoking in the last week were compared with those who did not. Those with AUDIT-C≥5 were also asked if they were currently trying to reduce the amount of alcohol they consume.

Results

After adjustment for socio-demographic characteristics and current smoking status, smokers who reported a quit attempt within the last week had lower AUDIT-C scores compared with those who did not report an attempt in the last week (βadj = −0.56, 95 % CI = −1.08 to −0.04) and were less likely to be classified as higher risk (AUDIT-C≥5: ORadj  = 0.57, 95 % CI = 0.38 to 0.85). The lower AUDIT-C scores appeared to be a result of lower scores on the frequency of ‘binge’ drinking item (βadj  = −0.25, 95 % CI = −0.43 to −0.07), with those who reported a quit attempt within the last week compared with those who did not being less likely to binge drink at least weekly (ORadj = 0.54, 95 % CI = 0.29 to 0.999) and more likely to not binge drink at all (ORadj  = 1.70, 95 % CI = 1.16 to 2.49). Among smokers with higher risk consumption (AUDIT-C≥5), those who reported an attempt to stop smoking within the last week compared with those who did not were more likely to report trying to reduce their alcohol consumption (ORadj = 2.98, 95 % CI = 1.48 to 6.01).

Conclusion

Smokers who report starting a quit attempt in the last week also report lower alcohol consumption, including less frequent binge drinking, and appear more likely to report currently attempting to reduce their alcohol consumption compared with smokers who do not report a quit attempt in the last week.

Lead author Jamie Brown, from University College London, England, said:

“These results go against the commonly held view that people who stop smoking tend to drink more to compensate. It’s possible that they are heeding advice to try to avoid alcohol because of its link to relapse.”

   Who was involved?

Jamie Brown, Robert West, Emma Beard, Alan Brennan, Colin Drummond, Duncan Gillespie, Matthew Hickman, John Holmes, Eileen Kaner, Susan Michie.

BMC Public Health, 2016; 16 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12889-016-3223-6

Read the full report on BMC here!

 

 

Unravelling the alcohol harm paradox: a population-based study of social gradients across very heavy drinking thresholds | Research report

 

Who was involved?

Dan Lewer – Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Charing Cross Hospital

Petra Meier – ScHARR, University of Sheffield

Emma Beard – Department of Epidemiology & Public Health and Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London

Sadie Boniface – National Addications Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London

Eileen Kaner – Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University

Background to the research:

There is consistent evidence that individuals in higher socioeconomic status groups are more likely to report exceeding recommended drinking limits, but those in lower socioeconomic status groups experience more alcohol-related harm. This has been called the ‘alcohol harm paradox’. Such studies typically use standard cut-offs to define heavy drinking, which are exceeded by a large proportion of adults. Our study pools data from six years (2008–2013) of the population-based Health Survey for England to test whether the socioeconomic distribution of more extreme levels of drinking could help explain the paradox.

Methods used:

The study included 51,498 adults from a representative sample of the adult population of England for a cross-sectional analysis of associations between socioeconomic status and self-reported drinking. Heavy weekly drinking was measured at four thresholds, ranging from 112 g+/168 g + (alcohol for women/men, or 14/21 UK standard units) to 680 g+/880 g + (or 85/110 UK standard units) per week. Heavy episodic drinking was also measured at four thresholds, from 48 g+/64 g + (or 6/8 UK standard units) to 192 g+/256 g + (or 24/32 UK standard units) in one day. Socioeconomic status indicators were equivalised household income, education, occupation and neighbourhood deprivation.

Results of the study:

Lower socioeconomic status was associated with lower likelihoods of exceeding recommended limits for weekly and episodic drinking, and higher likelihoods of exceeding more extreme thresholds. For example, participants in routine or manual occupations had 0.65 (95 % CI 0.57–0.74) times the odds of exceeding the recommended weekly limit compared to those in ‘higher managerial’ occupations, and 2.15 (95 % CI 1.06–4.36) times the odds of exceeding the highest threshold. Similarly, participants in the lowest income quintile had 0.60 (95 % CI 0.52–0.69) times the odds of exceeding the recommended weekly limit when compared to the highest quintile, and 2.30 (95 % CI 1.28–4.13) times the odds of exceeding the highest threshold.

Conclusions

Low socioeconomic status groups are more likely to drink at extreme levels, which may partially explain the alcohol harm paradox. Policies that address alcohol-related health inequalities need to consider extreme drinking levels in some sub-groups that may be associated with multiple markers of deprivation. This will require a more disaggregated understanding of drinking practices.

Read the full report here.

 

@SARG_ScHARR Research reveals surprising insight into British drinking culture #alcohol

  • Almost half of all drinking occasions are moderate, relaxed and take place in the home
  • Pre-drinking is now a common feature of nights out for both younger and older adults
  • Half of get-togethers with friends or family involve increased or higher risk drinking

New research into the UK’s alcohol consumption has revealed a surprising picture of Britain’s drinking culture.

alcohol consumption infographic by ScHARR

The study by the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group, funded by Alcohol Research UK, shows that while heavy drinking is still commonplace, much consumption is moderate and sociable.

Between 2009 and 2011, almost half (46 per cent) of drinking occasions in the UK involved moderate, relaxed drinking in the home. However, nine per cent involved drinking heavily at home with a partner.

The study, published online by the scientific journal Addiction, also confirmed that ‘pre-drinking’ is a typical feature of nights out for both young adults and older drinkers – and often involves heavy consumption.

A total of 10 per cent of all drinking occasions involved groups of friends moving between home and pub drinking and consuming on average 14 units of alcohol – the equivalent of seven pints of beer or one and a half bottles of wine. However, for many, going out with friends often involved drinking only low levels of alcohol.

In comparison, almost half of get-togethers with friends or family which take place exclusively at home, such as dinner parties, house parties and watching sport, involved increased or higher risk drinking*.

Dr John Holmes, a Senior Research Fellow in the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group, who led the study, said: “Far from the stereotypes of binge Britain or a nation of pub-drinkers, we find that British drinking culture mixes relaxed routine home drinking with elements of excess.

“Young people do binge drink on big nights out but we also see heavy drinking among middle-aged couples relaxing at home and among all ages at domestic get-togethers.”

The findings come from detailed drinking diaries completed by a representative sample of 90,000 adults as part of Kantar Worldpanel’s Alcovision study**. In addition to recording how much they drank, participants detailed where and when they consumed alcohol, who was there and why they were drinking.

The researchers based at the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) used the diaries to identify eight main types of drinking occasion.

Most of these involved drinking in the home and included; drinking at home alone (14 per cent of occasions), light drinking at home with family (13 per cent), light drinking at home with a partner (20 per cent) and heavy drinking at home with a partner (nine per cent).

Consuming alcohol away from home was less common and included going out for a few drinks with friends (11 per cent of occasions) and going out for a meal as a couple or with family (nine per cent). The study found 10 per cent of occasions involved drinking heavily at both home and the pub – whether through pre- or post-drinking during a night out.

Dr James Nicholls, Director of Research and Policy Development at Alcohol Research UK, said “The idea that there is a single British drinking culture is wrong. Drinking behaviours have changed enormously over time, and there are wide variations within society.

“Rather than assuming society is neatly divided between ‘binge’, ‘heavy’ or ‘moderate’ drinkers we should think about the occasions on which people drink more or less heavily – and the fact we may be moderate in some contexts, and less so in others. If we want to address problems associated with drinking, we need to recognise the diversity of how we drink and understand the crucial role that cultures and contexts play in that.”

The study is published as an open access paper in the scientific journal Addiction and is available in the accepted articles section of Addiction’s website:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/%28ISSN%291360-0443

The full citation is: Ally AK, Lovatt M, Meier PS, Brennan A, and Holmes J. (2016) Developing a social practice-based typology of British drinking culture in 2009-2011: Implications for alcohol policy analysis. Addiction doi: 10.1111/add.13397.

To find out more about the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group’s work, click here to visit their website.

Read more @ The Conversation 

Minimum unit pricing and strength-based taxation have larger impacts on health inequalities than increasing current alcohol taxes.

Introducing minimum unit pricing or alcohol-content-taxation would reduce inequalities in health more than increasing alcohol duty under the current tax system or increasing VAT on alcohol, a new report has shown.

Research from the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group (SARG) compared four policy strategies for regulating alcohol prices to estimate how changes in alcohol price would affect individual levels of alcohol consumption and the subsequent impact on illness and deaths associated with 43 alcohol-attributable conditions in England.

The study, which is the first of its kind, showed that strategies which strongly link alcohol content with the price of drinks were more suited to tackling health inequalities compared to the current duty system where wine and cider are taxed by total beverage volume regardless of strength, and duty rates per unit of alcohol vary widely between different types of drink.

There are substantial mup-graphhealth inequalities in England, with people in the lowest socioeconomic group dying on average six years earlier than those in the highest. Reducing inequalities in health is a key priority across the globe and tackling alcohol-related harm plays a major role in reducing the gap.          

The research, published today (23 February 2016) in the leading medical journal Plos Medicine, revealed a tax based on alcohol strength and minimum unit pricing would both have large impacts on harmful drinking across all socioeconomic groups, whilst having minimal effects on those drinking in moderation.

The four pricing strategies were chosen at a level estimated to prevent exactly the same number of alcohol-related deaths in the population so that the researchers could compare effects in different groups of the population.

The strategies were:

1) A 13.4 per cent increase in duty for all products under the current UK system.

2) A four per cent tax based on product price.

3) A strength-based tax of 22p per UK alcohol unit.

4) Minimum price of 50p per unit, below which alcohol cannot be sold.

“Alcohol is now 54 per cent more affordable in the UK than it was in 1980 and harmful alcohol consumption is a major public health issue accounting for an estimated 2.7 million deaths globally.

Our findings suggest that minimum unit pricing and taxing alcohol by strength are a well-targeted interventions which would lead to greater reductions in health inequalities compared to the current UK duty system or taxes levied on sales price – a tax system prevalent in many developing countries.

Our results also suggest that a substantial 13.4 per cent increase in current duty would be required to achieve the same overall harm reductions as a 50p minimum unit price.

EU countries have limited options however, as EU law prohibits taxation by strength for wine and cider. The implementation of minimum unit pricing in Scotland is still held up in a court case brought against the Scottish Government by the alcohol industry, where the Government needs to demonstrate that minimum unit pricing would have important public health benefits that cannot be achieved as effectively through existing taxation powers.

Similar plans in Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are resting on the outcome of this court case. Although set in England, our study makes a major contribution to the evidence in this respect.”

Professor Petra Meier

Director of SARG at the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR)  

“Alcohol taxes are the most common intervention internationally, although minimum unit pricing has recently started to attract much international interest. Until now there was little evidence to support policy makers wishing to compare the health impacts of different taxation. 

Minimum unit pricing and strength-based taxation are better-targeted than the current UK tax system for reducing alcohol-related harm as they have larger effects on heavy drinkers and smaller effects on moderate drinkers.”

Dr John Holmes, Senior Research Fellow at SARG

@SARG_ScHARR team present Research Rap at UKCTAS Early Career Researchers’ Day!

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**To the tune of Fresh Prince of Bel Air**

From South Yorkshire, born and raised

SARG members examined an alcohol craze

Minimum pricing, taxation galore,

Just a few of the things we like to explore…

We first formed in two thousand and ten

When the MRC gave us money to spend

The Sheffield Alcohol Model we built,

Based on those who were drinking, while wearing a kilt!

We’ve got 15 members in our research group…

But we still like to keep UKCTAS in the loop

We research policy and many other things

So here’s a big list of what we bring…

Policy appraisal and price modelling,

Treatment capacity for heavy drinking,

Understanding why Brits drink a lot

Examining elasticities of what they bought

Adapting our model for tons of nations,

Like Wales, Scotland, and other relations

Developing models to curb tobacco smoking

Preventing risky drinkers from prematurely croaking

Awareness of drinking and cancer risk,

Hearing focus groups shout nanny state, ‘tisk, tisk!’

Reviewing drink guidelines in South London

Improving survey measures of alcohol consumption

Adapting our model for local authorities

Examining harms to others, close families

Defining what is meant by a drinking occasion

Addressing court appeal for EU persuasion

So these are the things SARG is working on now

We hope you enjoyed, now it’s time for the bow

If you have final comments for any one of us,

Please come and shout, future collaborations are a plus!

View more: SARG News and Activities 2015