Alcohol Consumption Declining, According to Results of New Study

New study published in The American Journal of Medicine

New York, August 6, 2008 – Overall alcohol use - particularly consumption of beer - is declining in the US, according to a new study published in the August 2008 issue of The American Journal of Medicine. Researchers examined 50 years of data and found several changes in alcohol intake but no change in alcohol use disorders. Americans are drinking significantly less beer and more wine, while hard liquor use has remained fairly constant. More people now report that they are non-drinkers. People born later in the 20th century drink more moderately than older people. As we age, our individual alcohol consumption goes down.

Researchers examined 8,000 records of the Framingham Heart Study, the longest population-based study of American adults ever conducted, to measure alcohol consumption over 50 years. Because the Framingham study recruited subjects that were born before 1900 until 1959, it gives insights into behavior and medical histories through most of the 20th Century. Subjects, both from the original cohort and from the children of the original cohort, have been interviewed every 4 years, from 1948 until 2003. Since each individual was followed directly, a set of histories of lifetime alcohol use could be captured.

While heavy alcohol use is associated with numerous bad outcomes, moderate consumption has been linked to improved cardiovascular health and to improved morbidity and mortality in the elderly. This study shows that, on the whole, the American population is moving in a healthier direction. Despite more favorable patterns of drinking, risk of alcohol dependence did not show a decrease. The proportion of people who developed alcohol-related disorders, such as alcoholic cardiomyopathy or alcoholic cirrhosis remained nearly constant across all age groups.

Writing in the article, Yuqing Zhang, DSc, Boston University School of Medicine, and his co-investigators state, “The findings in this study may be considered encouraging in many ways: the average amount of alcohol has decreased in more recently born cohorts, the percentage of the population exhibiting ‘moderate’ alcohol intake has been increasing steadily, and the percentage reporting ‘heavy’ drinking has decreased over time…While these data suggest the development of more favorable patterns of alcohol consumption over the latter part of the 20th century, that also show that, at the same time, the cumulative incidence of alcohol use disorders has not shown a decrease, and continuing efforts at preventing them are warranted.”

The article is “Secular Trends in Alcohol Consumption over 50 Years: The Framingham Study” by Yuqing Zhang, DSc, Xinxin Guo, MPH, Richard Saitz, MD, MPH, Daniel Levy, MD, MPH, Emily Sartini, MA, Jingbo Niu, DSc, and R. Curtis Ellison, MD. It appears in The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 121, Issue 8 (August 2008) published by Elsevier.

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Full text of the article featured above is available upon request. Contact ajmmedia@elsevier.com to obtain a copy. To schedule an interview contact:

Dr. Yuqing Zhang
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E-mail: yuqing@bu.edu

Or

Dr. R. Curtis Ellison
Boston University School of Medicine
Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology
Tel: (617) 638-8083
E-mail: ellison@bu.edu

Or

Ms. Gina Digravio
Media Relations Manager
Boston University School of Medicine
Tel: (617) 638-8491
E-mail: gina.digravio@bmc.org

About The American Journal of Medicine
The American Journal of Medicine, known as the “Green Journal,” is one of the oldest and most prestigious general internal medicine journals published in the United States. It is ranked 11th out of 100 General and Internal Medicine titles according to the 2007 Journal Citation Reports© published by Thomson Reuters.

AJM, the official journal of The Association of Professors of Medicine, a group comprised of chairs of departments of internal medicine at 125-plus U.S. medical schools, publishes peer-reviewed, original scientific studies that have direct clinical significance. The information contained in this article in The American Journal of Medicine is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment, and the Journal recommends consultation with your physician or healthcare professional. AJM is published by Elsevier.

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