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Associations between self‐reported illness and non‐drinking in young adults

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Aims  This study investigated associations between self‐reported illness, social factors and health behaviours and non‐drinking among young people aged 18–34 years.

Design  Logistic regression analysis of cross‐sectional national survey data, collected from the Health Survey for England 2006 and 2008. Data were collected through face‐to‐face interviews and are self‐reported.

Participants and settings  A total of 2826 male and 3618 females aged 18–34 years drawn from a nationally representative multi‐stage stratified probability sampling design across England.

Measurements  Non‐drinkers were based on those who reported ‘no’ to drinking alcohol currently. Exposure measures included self‐reports of having a limiting long‐standing illness, long‐standing illness or self‐reported poor health. We adjusted for ethnicity, income, education, general physical activity and other factors.

Findings  Having a limiting long‐standing illness during early adulthood increased the odds of being a non‐drinker 1.74 times for men (P < 0.01) and 1.45 times for women (P < 0.01). In both men and women belonging to the lowest income quintile or having no qualifications was associated with increased odds of being a non‐drinker (P < 0.001), indicating that the social gradient in non‐drinking begins at an early age. Men and women aged 18–34 years with the lowest activity levels were also more likely to be non‐drinkers (P < 0.01).

Conclusion  Young adults who have a limiting long‐standing illness are more likely not to drink alcohol even after adjusting for a range of social and demographic measures. Studies on the putative health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption later in life need to take account of early life history.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCL, London, UK

Publication date: 2012-09-01

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