Heavy drinkers of alcohol are reported to use hospitals more than non-drinkers, but it is unclear whether light-to-moderate drinkers use hospitals more than non-drinkers.
A study examined the relationship between alcohol consumption in 10,883 men and 12,857 women aged 40–79 years in the general population and subsequent admissions to hospital and time spent in hospital.
The participants, who were drawn from the EPICNorfolk prospective population-based study were followed for ten years (1999-2009).
Compared to current non-drinkers, men who reported any alcohol drinking had a lower risk of spending more than twenty days in hospital multivariable adjusted OR 0.80 after adjusting for age, smoking status, education, social class, body mass index and prevalent diseases. Women who were current drinkers were less likely to have any hospital admissions multivariable adjusted OR 0.84, seven or more admissions OR 0.77 or more than twenty hospital days OR 0.70. Compared to lifelong abstainers, men who were former drinkers had higher risk of any hospital admissions multivariable adjusted OR 2.22 and women former drinkers had higher risk of seven or more admissions OR 1.30.
The study concludes that current alcohol consumption was associated with lower risk of future hospital usage compared with non-drinkers in this middle aged and older population. In men, this association may in part be due to whether former drinkers are included in the non-drinker reference group but in women, the association was consistent irrespective of the choice of reference group. In addition, there were few participants in this cohort with very high current alcohol intake. The authors add that the measurement of past drinking, the separation of non-drinkers into former drinkers and lifelong abstainers and the choice of reference group are all influential in interpreting the risk of alcohol consumption on future hospitalisation.
Source: Alcohol consumption and future hospital usage: the EPIC-Norfolk prospective population study. Luben R; Hayat S; Mulligan A; Lentjes M; Wareham N; Pharoah P; Khaw KT, PLoS One, Vol 13, No 7, 2018, Art No e0200747, 18pp.