Cad Saude Publica 2019 8;35(4):e00025618. Epub 2019 Apr 8.
Centre for Business and Economics Research, Coimbra, Portugal.
Harmful use of alcohol ranks among the top five risk factors for disease, disability and death worldwide. However, not all individuals who consume alcohol throughout life are addicted and our premise is that addiction implies a chain of consumption that produces harmful effects. The objective of this study was to evaluate whether self-assessed past drinking problems - our measure of harmful alcohol consumption - affect the current alcohol consumption patterns. We expected that drinking problems in the past could have a positive effect on current alcohol consumption. Using Portuguese data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), we applied an ordered probit model, given the ordered nature of the dependent variable. Our dependent variable measures the current consumption using categories listed in ascending order of alcohol intake frequency (from less than once a month to daily consumption). Our results suggest that harmful alcohol consumption in the past is an important determinant of current alcohol consumption. Self-assessed past drinking problems had a positive effect on the first five lower categories of current alcohol consumption frequency - less than once a month to up to six days a week. Therefore, to reduce non-communicable avoidable diseases related to the use of alcohol, policies should consider the individuals' decisions regarding alcohol consumption during their lifetime, and specific policies should focus on individuals with past drinking problems.