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Am J Epidemiol. 2011 Oct 1;174(7):769-78. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwr147. Epub 2011 Aug 18.

Racial and ethnic differences in all-cause mortality risk according to alcohol consumption patterns in the national alcohol surveys.

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Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute, Emeryville, California, USA.


Previous studies have found J-shaped relations between volume of alcohol consumed and mortality risk in white Americans but not in African Americans, suggesting the need for studies in which race/ethnicity-defined subgroups are analyzed in separate comparable models. In the present study, the authors utilized mortality follow-up data (through 2006) on respondents from the 1984 and 1995 National Alcohol Surveys, including similar numbers of black, white, and Hispanic respondents by oversampling the minority groups. Cox proportional hazards models controlling for demographic, socioeconomic, mental health, and drug- and tobacco-use measures were used to estimate mortality risk from all causes. Findings indicated a protective effect of moderate alcohol drinking (2-30 drinks/month for women and 2-60 drinks/month for men) with no monthly ≥5-drink days) relative to lifetime abstention for whites only. Elevated mortality risk relative to moderate drinking was found in former drinkers with lifetime alcohol problems. Moderate drinkers who consumed ≥5 drinks in 1 day at least monthly were also found to have increased risk, suggesting the importance of identifying heavy-occasion drinking for mortality analyses. These differential results regarding lifetime abstainers may suggest bias from differential unmeasured confounding or unmeasured aspects of alcohol consumption pattern or may be due to genetic differences in the health impact of alcohol metabolism.

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