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Changing drinking pattern does not influence health perception: a longitudinal study of the atherosclerosis risk in communities study


Objective: To investigate if dynamic changes in the pattern of alcoholic beverages consumption are associated with modifications in health perception.

Design, setting, and participants: This study investigated 12 332 middle aged men and women from the atherosclerosis risk in communities study who reported drinking status and perceived health triennially from 1987 to 1995. Crude and adjusted risks for change in health perception between visits two and three by change in drinking status between visits one and two were computed. In the multivariate analysis the sample was restricted to participants with stable drinking status between visit two and three and stable health perception between visits one and two, to assure that exposure and outcome were not temporary. Covariates included age, sex, race, income, smoking status, educational level, and obesity.

Results: Health for persons who stopped or started drinking, or continued to abstain was more likely to decline than was health for persons who continued to drink even after adjustment and restrictions (drinking cessation: OR = 1.6, 95% CI = 1.1, 2.3; started drinking; OR =  1.4, 95% CI = 0.9, 2.2; continued abstaining from alcohol: OR = 1.5, 95% CI = 1.3, 1.9). Among participants with poor perceived health, starting, stopping, or continuing to abstain from alcohol did not improve health in relation to participants that continued to drink.

Conclusion: Increasing and decreasing drinking patterns and continuous abstinence were associated with declining health perception in comparison with continuous drinking, while starting or stopping drinking did not improve health perception of persons with poor perceived health. These findings suggest that change in health perception was not biologically related to alcohol consumption.

  • alcohol drinking
  • health perception

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