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Is alcohol consumption related to likelihood of reporting chronic widespread pain in people with stable consumption? Results from UK biobank

Beasley, Marcus J.; Macfarlane, Tatiana V.; Macfarlane, Gary J.

doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000675
Research Paper

Studies have suggested that alcohol consumption is strongly related to reduced reporting of chronic widespread pain (CWP) and level of disability in people with CWP or fibromyalgia. Direction of causality has not been established, that is whether the association is due to people's health influencing their alcohol consumption or vice versa. UK Biobank recruited over 500,000 people aged 40 to 69 years, registered at medical practices nationwide. Participants provided detailed information on health and lifestyle factors including pain and alcohol consumption. Total units consumed per week were calculated for current drinkers. Information was also collected on changes in alcohol consumption and reasons for such changes. Analysis was performed with logistic regression expressed as odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals, then adjusted for a large number of potential confounding factors (adjORs). In males who reported drinking the same as 10 years previously, there was a U-shaped relationship between amount drunk and odds of reporting CWP (nondrinkers CWP prevalence 2.4%, 19.1-32.1 units/wk 0.4%, >53.6 units/wk 1.0%; adjORs 2.53 95% confidence intervals [1.78-3.60] vs 1 vs 1.52 [1.05-2.20]). In females, there was a decrease in the proportion reporting CWP up to the modal category of alcohol consumption with no further change in those drinking more (nondrinkers CWP prevalence 3.4%, 6.4-11.2 units/wk 0.7%, >32.1 units/wk 0.7%; adjORs 2.11 [1.67-2.66] vs 1 vs 0.86 [0.54-1.39]). This large study has shown a clear relationship between alcohol consumption and reporting of pain even in people who had not reported changing consumption because of health concerns, after adjustment for potential confounding factors.

Alcohol consumption was associated with lowered reporting of chronic widespread pain in a large biobank. The association remained when looking at those without changed consumption.

aEpidemiology Group, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom

bAberdeen Centre for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Health, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom

Corresponding author. Address: Epidemiology Group, Institute of Applied Health Sciences, School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Aberdeen, Polwarth Building, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, United Kingdom. Tel.: +44(0)1244 437087. E-mail address: (M.J. Beasley).

Sponsorships or competing interests that may be relevant to content are disclosed at the end of this article.

Received January 18, 2016

Received in revised form June 28, 2016

Accepted July 13, 2016

© 2016 International Association for the Study of Pain
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