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Approved research

What does the alcohol harm paradox look like when evidenced from Biobank data?

Principal Investigator: Ms Jennifer Boyd
Approved Research ID: 55901
Approval date: February 17th 2020

Lay summary

The risk of alcohol-related harm increases as people consume more alcohol. However, in the UK, those in more deprived populations have higher rates of alcohol-related harm than those in less deprived populations despite being less likely to drink and drinking less on average if they do so. This 'alcohol harm paradox' is seen for deaths from liver disease, and a range of other causes of death that are related to alcohol. The UK Biobank database is a detailed resource which has not yet been used to explore the existence of the alcohol harm paradox. The aim of this project is to test whether there is a relationship between socioeconomic status and alcohol related harm after accounting for consumption. If this relationship exists, the subsequent aim would be to test whether this is the result of people of a low SES consuming their alcohol in a different pattern (e.g. binge drinking) when compared to high SES who drink the same amount across a week. Or Alternatively, it will test whether whether the difference in harm can be explained by low SES people being more likely to engage in additional unhealthy behaviours like smoking or an unhealthy diet, whereas high SES people do not. This project would feed into a larger PhD project which aims to understand the causes of the alcohol harm paradox using theories related to the social, environmental and economic circumstances those in deprived populations experience. This initial analysis is therefore part of a 3-year project. The public health impact of this work will be to provide a deeper understanding of how to tackle problems associated with the alcohol harm paradox which will inform the development of appropriate public health interventions and policies.