Alcohol Consumption May Predict Disability from Chronic Pain


A cocktail a day may keep the doctor away when it comes to patients with chronic widespread pain (CWP).

A cocktail a day may keep the doctor away when it comes to patients with chronic widespread pain (CWP).

A study conducted by Gary J. Macfarlane, MD, PhD, and Marcus Beasley, MSc, from the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Applied Sciences, investigated the link between alcohol consumption and disability associated with CWP. As it turns out, regular alcohol consumers may have a leg up on those who avoid imbibing when it comes to pain levels.

A total of 13,574 participants — with an average age of 55 and 57% female – were included in the UK-analysis. Of those, 2,239 (16.5%) had been diagnosed with CWP and it was reported which participants were disabled as a result. All subjects filled out questionnaires which revealed alcohol consumption trends. The authors noted that one unit of alcohol was defined as a half pint of average strength beer/lager, one small glass of wine, or one single measure of spirits.

  • Never regularly consume alcohol: 28%
  • Consume up to five until per week: 28%
  • Consume six to 10 units per week: 20%
  • Consume 10 or more units per week: 24%

“Potential confounding factors on which information was available included age, gender, cigarette smoking, employment status, self-reported weight and height and level of deprivation,” the report stated.

Alcohol consumption proved to be a strong factor in patients disabled from CWP, according to the study published in Arthritis Care & Research. When compared to those who never drank alcohol, the ones who consumed 21 to 35 units per week were 67% less likely to be disabled. The results also indicated that higher alcohol consumption was associated with an increased likelihood of patients reporting CWP.

The authors clarified that while evidence showed a prevalent connection between alcohol and CWP, a firm conclusion cannot be made yet.

“Although we cannot say that alcohol consumption causes less disability among people with chronic widespread pain, the observed link warrants further investigation,” Macfarlane concluded in a news release.

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