Archive for December, 2013

More alcohol and traffic laws mean fewer traffic deaths

States with a higher number of alcohol- and traffic-related laws have a lower proportion of traffic deaths than do states with fewer such laws on the books, a study by researchers at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development has found.

“Our findings show the human cost of these differences in state law environments,” said James Macinko, a professor in NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and the paper’s senior author.

Laws Reduce Traffic Deaths

Their study, which appears in the journal Public Health, examined 27 types of laws, which ranged from child restraint laws to beer taxes to mandatory fines for DUI violations, across all 50 states. The researchers chose these laws based on the following criteria: 1) they were aimed at changing individual behaviors concerning alcohol consumption and/or traffic safety and 2) there was evidence, based on previous research, supporting their effectiveness in improving health outcomes. They then calculated what proportion of these laws were adopted by a state in any year from 1980 to 2010.

Overall, state adoption of these laws grew significantly over time. In 1980, states, on average, had adopted 7.7 percent of the 27 laws; in 2010, this proportion had jumped to 59 percent. However, states adopting such laws diverged over time: in 1980, the proportion between high- and low-adopting states differed by 8 percent, but grew to nearly 30 percent in 2009.

To determine the association between the adoption of alcohol and traffic legislation and road safety, the researchers examined the relationship between the proportion of laws put on the books and deaths resulting from traffic accidents.

Getting States Up to Speed Saves Lives

Controlling for other risk factors, such as state socioeconomic levels, unemployment levels, and population density, the researchers found that being in the top quartile of laws passed was associated with 14.5 percent decrease in the traffic fatality rate compared to being in the bottom quartile. In fact, even being in the second-lowest quartile was associated with 5 percent decrease in the traffic fatality rate compared to being in the bottom quartile.

“Lagging behind in adopting the full range of the laws is not a theoretical concern—more people are dying as a result,” says Diana Silver, an assistant professor the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and one of the study’s co-authors. “Policymakers and advocates should focus attention on states where such protections are the weakest and bring them up to speed.”

December 20th, 2013  in Alcohol No Comments »

Total smoking bans work best

Completely banning tobacco use inside the home – or more broadly in the whole city – measurably boosts the odds of smokers either cutting back or quitting entirely, report University of California, San Diego School of Medicine researchers in the current online issue of Preventive Medicine.

“When there’s a total smoking ban in the home, we found that smokers are more likely to reduce tobacco consumption and attempt to quit than when they’re allowed to smoke in some parts of the house,” said Wael K. Al-Delaimy, MD, PhD, professor and chief of the Division of Global Health in the UC San Diego Department of Family and Preventive Medicine.

Effective Tobacco Bans

“The same held true when smokers report a total smoking ban in their city or town. Having both home and city bans on smoking appears to be even more effective.”

Al-Delaimy said the findings underscore the public health importance of smoking bans inside and outside the home as a way to change smoking behaviors and reduce tobacco consumption at individual and societal levels.

Positive Impact of Smoking Bans

“California was the first state in the world to ban smoking in public places in 1994 and we are still finding the positive impact of that ban by changing the social norm and having more homes and cities banning smoking,” he said.

“These results provide quantitative evidence that smoking bans that are mainly for the protection of nonsmokers from risks of secondhand smoke actually encourage quitting behaviors among smokers in California. They highlight the potential value of increasing city-level smoking bans and creating a win-win outcome.”

Al-Delaimy and colleagues surveyed 1,718 current smokers identified as a representative sample of the adult population in California. They found that total home smoking bans were significantly associated with reduced consumption and successful quitting, but partial bans were not.

Total Home Bans

Similarly, smokers who report smoking is broadly banned in their city were also more likely to attempt to quit and succeed than in places where smoking is not banned.

The researchers found that total home bans were more effective in reducing smoking among persons 65 years and older and among females, while city smoking bans were significantly associated with quit attempts in males, but not females. Total home bans were more effective in households without children, possibly reflecting the ultimate goal of cessation rather than primarily reducing children’s secondhand smoke exposure. Neither race nor income significantly modified relations between total home bans and smoking reductions.

December 19th, 2013  in Tobacco No Comments »

Heavy drinking is bad for marriage

Do drinking and marriage mix? That depends on who’s doing the drinking — and how much — according to a recent study by the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA).

Researchers followed 634 couples from the time of their weddings through the first nine years of marriage and found that couples where only one spouse was a heavy drinker had a much higher divorce rate than other couples.

But if both spouses were heavy drinkers? The divorce rate was the same as for couples where neither were heavy drinkers.

Differences Are the Key

“Our results indicate that it is the difference between the couple’s drinking habits, rather than the drinking itself, that leads to marital dissatisfaction, separation and divorce,” said Kenneth Leonard, PhD, RIA director and lead author of the study.

A video interview with Leonard about the research is available here: http://youtu.be/AhRDOJG75CU.

The study’s co-authors were Gregory Homish, PhD, and Philip Smith, PhD, of UB’s Department of Community Health and Health Behavior.

Over the course of the nine-year study, nearly 50 percent of couples where only one partner drank more heavily wound up divorcing, while the divorce rates for other couples was only 30 percent. (“Heavy drinking” was defined as drinking six or more drinks at one time or drinking to intoxication.)

Drinking By One Partner Prompts Divorce

“This research provides solid evidence to bolster the commonplace notion that heavy drinking by one partner can lead to divorce,” Leonard said. “Although some people might think that’s a likely outcome, there was surprisingly little data to back up that claim until now.”

The surprising outcome was that the divorce rate for two heavy drinkers was no worse than for two non-heavy drinkers. “Heavy drinking spouses may be more tolerant of negative experiences related to alcohol due to their own drinking habits,” Leonard said. But he cautioned that this does not mean other aspects of family life are unimpaired. “While two heavy drinkers may not divorce, they may create a particularly bad climate for their children.”

Rate Higher If Wife Is the Drinker

The researchers also found a slightly higher divorce rate in cases when the heavy drinker was the wife, rather than the husband. Leonard cautions that this difference is based on only a few couples in which the wife was a heavy drinker, but the husband was not, and that the finding was not statistically significant. He suggests that if this difference is supported by further research, it might be because men view heavy drinking by their wives as going against proper gender roles for women, leading to more conflict.

The study controlled for factors such as marijuana and tobacco use, depression and socioeconomic status, which can also be related to marital dissatisfaction, separation and divorce.

“Ultimately, we hope our findings will be helpful to marriage therapists and mental health practitioners who can explore whether a difference in drinking habits is causing conflicts between couples seeking help,” Leonard said.

The study was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the findings will appear in the December issue of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

December 13th, 2013  in Alcohol No Comments »

Energy drinks plus alcohol a public health threat

Mixing energy drinks with alcohol is riskier than just drinking alcohol alone, according to a new study that examines the impact of a growing trend among young adults.
Published in the current issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study was conducted by Megan Patrick of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and Jennifer Maggs of Penn State University.
“We found that college students tended to drink more heavily and become more intoxicated on days they used both energy drinks and alcohol, compared to days they only used alcohol,” said Patrick, lead author of the study.
While the U.S. no longer permits manufacturers to premix high-caffeine products with alcohol, mixed drinks such as vodka Red Bulls and Jäger bombs, made by dropping a shot of Jägermeister liquor into a glass of Red Bull, are becoming increasingly popular.
According to the researchers, the public health implications include not only physical risks to individuals from blacking out and alcohol poisoning, for example, but also exposing the community to dangerous situations in which young adults may be “wide awake drunk” after a night of partying.
Patrick and Maggs analyzed data on 652 college students over a period of four semesters. During four two-week periods, the students answered questions every day about their consumption of energy drinks and alcohol, and about any negative consequences they experienced as a result—from having a hangover to getting into trouble.
“Our findings suggest that the use of energy drinks and alcohol together may lead to heavier drinking and more serious alcohol-related problems,” Patrick said. “As energy drinks become more and more popular, we should think about prevention strategies for reducing the negative consequences of using energy drinks and of combining energy drinks with alcohol.”

Mixing energy drinks with alcohol is riskier than just drinking alcohol alone, according to a new study that examines the impact of a growing trend among young adults.

Published in the current issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study was conducted by Megan Patrick of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and Jennifer Maggs of Penn State University.

More Intoxicated

“We found that college students tended to drink more heavily and become more intoxicated on days they used both energy drinks and alcohol, compared to days they only used alcohol,” said Patrick, lead author of the study.

While the U.S. no longer permits manufacturers to premix high-caffeine products with alcohol, mixed drinks such as vodka Red Bulls and Jäger bombs, made by dropping a shot of Jägermeister liquor into a glass of Red Bull, are becoming increasingly popular.

According to the researchers, the public health implications include not only physical risks to individuals from blacking out and alcohol poisoning, for example, but also exposing the community to dangerous situations in which young adults may be “wide awake drunk” after a night of partying.

Leads to More Serious Problems

Patrick and Maggs analyzed data on 652 college students over a period of four semesters. During four two-week periods, the students answered questions every day about their consumption of energy drinks and alcohol, and about any negative consequences they experienced as a result—from having a hangover to getting into trouble.

“Our findings suggest that the use of energy drinks and alcohol together may lead to heavier drinking and more serious alcohol-related problems,” Patrick said. “As energy drinks become more and more popular, we should think about prevention strategies for reducing the negative consequences of using energy drinks and of combining energy drinks with alcohol.”

December 13th, 2013  in Alcohol No Comments »