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J Stud Alcohol. 1999 Nov;60(6):725-31.

The U-shaped curve: various health measures and alcohol drinking patterns.

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Department of Public Health, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.



To determine whether the well-known U-shaped relationship between average alcohol intake and mortality also holds for other health measures and for aspects of drinking other than weekly average alcohol intake, such as frequency of heavy-drinking episodes.


This study was carried out within the framework of a general population survey conducted in Eindhoven, The Netherlands (N = 18,973). Apart from mortality, the following health measures were considered: self-assessed health (based on perceived general health and the Nottingham Health Profile questionnaire), a list of chronic conditions and a list of health complaints. Respondents were categorized as abstainers, light (1-14 units/week), moderate (15-28 units/week) and excessive drinkers (> or =29 units/week). Information on the frequency with which heavy-drinking episodes occurred was also available.


Light or moderate drinkers had not only lower mortality but other health burdens were lower than for either abstainers or heavier drinkers. Frequent heavy-drinking episodes were observed to be directly related to increased mortality rates, although not significantly. A trend was observed for drinkers reporting seldom heavy-drinking episodes (once or twice in the previous 6 months) to report less health burdens and to have lower mortality rates than those reporting no heavy drinking episodes.


A U-shaped pattern was observed for mortality as well as for several other health measures. Frequent heavy-drinking episodes were related to an increased likelihood of mortality (not significant but suggesting a J-shaped pattern) and were not related to other health measures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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