An empirical approach to evaluating the validity of alternative low-risk drinking guidelines

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Abstract

Introduction and Aims.

This paper proposes an approach for evaluating the validity of alternative low-risk drinking guidelines.

Design and Methods.

Twenty-seven alternative guidelines were evaluated in terms of their ability to predict nine measures of concurrent and prospective alcohol-related harm, using longitudinal data from a nationally representative sample of US adults (n = 26 438 to 12 339 depending upon outcome). Parameters compared included sensitivity, specificity, adjusted odds ratios and measures of model fit.

Results.

Performance varied by harm. The guidelines that best predicted concurrent alcohol-related harm comprised daily-only limits of 4/3 drinks for men/women, but gender-invariant limits of 4/4 drinks also performed well. Adding weekly limits did little to improve the prediction of concurrent harm. The guidelines that best predicted prospective harm comprised daily limits of 4/4 drinks combined with weekly limits of 14 drinks for men and 7 drinks for women, with weekly limits of 14/14 drinks running second. When concurrent and incident harms were aggregated, daily-only limits of 4/3 drinks performed nearly on a par with the combination of 14/14 drinks per week and 4/3 drinks per day.

Discussion and Conclusions.

This paper supported gender-specific daily limits and suggested that optimal guidelines might take daily limits from analyses of concurrent harms and weekly limits from analyses of prospective harms. This paper illustrates a mechanism for validating the ability of low-risk drinking guidelines to accurately predict a range of alcohol-related harms, whereby countries could use their own data on consumption and its association with harm to evaluate their low-risk drinking guidelines.[Dawson DA, Smith SM, Pickering RP, Grant BF. An empirical approach to evaluating the validity of alternative low-risk drinking guidelines. Drug Alcohol Rev 2012;31:141–150]

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