Quitting Alcohol Associated with Quality of Life Improvements

July 8, 2019
Patrick Campbell

A recent study examining a cohort from the Hong Kong FAMILY cohort and NESARC found that quitting alcohol was comparable to quitting smoking in related quality of life improvements.

Changes in alcohol consumption can result in improvements in quality of life among female patients, especially their mental well-being, according to a recent study.

Investigators from Hong Kong found that quitting drinking was linked to favorable changes in mental well-being that were still apparent, even after adjusting for factors such as BMI and smoking status.

"Global alcohol consumption is expected to continue to increase unless effective strategies are employed," said investigator Michael Ni, MD, school of public health and the State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Science. "Our findings suggest caution in recommendations that moderate drinking could improve health-related quality of life. Instead, quitting drinking may be associated with a more favourable change in mental well-being, approaching the level of lifetime abstainers."

Investigators obtained population-representative data from the FAMILY Cohort and the US National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) to evaluate the associations between changes in moderate alcohol consumptions and quality of life from 2 distinct populations. All participants were 18 or older and alcohol measurements were available at 2 time points over a 4-year period.

Data on a total of 10,386 participants was extracted from the FAMILY cohort. The mean age of that group was 49.3 years and the proportion of men was 44.2%. Most of the 5794 women included were nondrinkers (n=2931) at Wave 1 and most of them (89.8%) remained lifetime abstainers at Wave 2. Of the remaining women of that group, 9.2% started drinking and 1.0% were persistent former drinkers. Among drinkers (n=714, 12.3%) at Wave 1, 62.2% quit drinking during the follow-up period.

Investigators noted that, among the FAMILY cohort, men and women who were lifetime abstainers had the highest level of mental well-being, as measured by the Physical and Mental Component Summary of the 12-Item Short Form Health Survey, at baseline (54.8 among men, and 53.6 among women). Female quitters had greater improvement in mental well-being relative to lifetime abstainers.

Among the NESARC cohort, a total of 31,079 participants were identified. The mean age was 46.3 years and 40.6% of the cohort was male. Investigators found that women who were lifetime abstainers had the highest level of mental well-being at baseline, with a mean score of 52.0.

Investigators validated associations detected in the FAMILY cohort using the results from the NESARC group. While it was observed that results remained consistent among female quitters (β = 0.83, 95% CI 0.08 to 1.58 in model 1; β = 0.83, 95% CI 0.07 to 1.58 in model 2), the association between male former drinkers and change in mental well-being was not validated.

Within their conclusion, investigators wrote they believe their results validate the premise that curbing alcohol consumption could lead to improvements in quality of life. In addition, improvements in mental well-being related to quitting alcohol were analogous to smoking cessation.

This study, titled "Change in moderate alcohol consumption and quality of life: evidence from 2 population-based cohorts,” is published in CMAJ.