Money Matters: Socioeconomic status shapes how alcohol affects heart health

Money Matters: Socioeconomic status shapes how alcohol affects heart health

Most of us are aware that drinking a lot of alcohol is bad for our health, but the authors of a new PLOS Medicine study were interested in how socioeconomic status – one’s social and economic position in society – alters these risks.

Armed with health and socioeconomic data from 30 years’ worth of mandatory surveys, Eirik Degerud and colleagues examined the relationship between socioeconomic status and alcohol-related disease in over 200,000 Norwegian adults.

The researchers found that survey participants who drank alcohol very frequently (four to seven times per week) were only more likely to die from cardiovascular disease if they had low socioeconomic status. Very frequent drinkers of higher socioeconomic status seemed to be insulated from this increased risk. Meanwhile, binge drinking was associated with a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, but this risk did not seem to differ by socioeconomic position.

The authors note that it is unclear whether alcohol-related cardiovascular disease really does affect socioeconomic groups differently, or whether other factors, not picked up in the surveys, were involved. Regardless, it seems that the effects of socioeconomic position on alcohol-related disease and death are complex, suggesting that strategies to address problematic drinking should likely take socioeconomic status into account.

Research Article: Degerud E, Ariansen I, Ystrom E, Graff-Iversen S, Høiseth G, Mørland J, et al. (2018) Life course socioeconomic position, alcohol drinking patterns in midlife, and cardiovascular mortality: Analysis of Norwegian population-based health surveys. PLoS Med 15(1): e1002476.

Image Credit: Czarina Alegre, Flickr


Beth works at PLOS as Journal Media Manager. She read Natural Sciences, specializing in Pathology, at the University of Cambridge before joining PLOS in 2013. She feels fortunate to be able to read and write about the exciting new research published by PLOS.

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