Table 1

Characteristics by groups of alcohol consumption (units per week) at baseline, Health Survey for England (1994; 1998; 1999; 2003; 2004 and 2006) and Scottish Health Survey (1998 and 2003) (n=36 370)

Alcohol categories in units/week*Never drunk (N=3090)Ex-drinkers (N=2217)Occasional drinkers† (N=9756)Within guidelines‡ (N=16 462)Hazardous§ (N=3905)Harmful¶ (N=940)
Exposure variables
 Alcohol consumption, median (IQR), units/week*NANANA3.5 (0.8–8.3)25.3 (21.0–31.6)57.9 (52.0–74.5)
 Physical activity—sports and walking, median (IQR), MET-hour**/week1.6 (0.0–9.8)1.5 (0.0–9.3)5.0 (0.0–15.2)4.5 (0.0–14.0)6.3 (1.0–17.7)4.1 (0.0–17.1)
Covariates
 Age, median (IQR), years60 (48–71)61 (51–70)56 (47–75)57 (48–68)53 (46–64)51 (45–61)
 Body mass index, median (IQR), kg/m226.7 (23.9–30.2)27.0 (24.0–30.3)26.8 (23.9–30.4)26.6 (24.1–29.7)26.5 (24.1–29.1)26.8 (24.3–29.6)
 GHQ††, median (IQR), score /120 (0–2)1 (0–3)0 (0–1)0 (0–2)0 (0–2)0 (0–2)
 Social class‡‡, % (frequency), professional or managerial27.2 (841/3090)24.1 (534/2217)20.4 (1997/9756)34.2 (5641/16 462)44.8 (1749/3905)35.4 (333/940)
 Cigarette smoking status§§, % (frequency), current smoker15.1 (467/3090)30.7 (683/2217)53.1 (5176/9756)21.4 (3519/16 462)27.1 (1059/3905)41.6 (392/940)
 Long-standing illness¶¶, % (frequency), yes57.3 (1771/3090)69.6 (1544/2217)42.0 (4093/9756)51.2 (8424/16 462)46.0 (1797/3905)48.8 (459/940)
 Doctor-diagnosed CVD***, % (frequency), yes12.1 (374/3090)17.1 (378/2217)5.5 (541/9756)8.8 (1453/16 462)6.9 (271/3905)5.3 (50/940)
  • *In the UK, one unit is 8 g of alcohol or 10 mL of pure ethanol (alcohol); in the USA, a standard drink is any drink that contains about 14 g of pure alcohol (17.5 mL). On that basis, one UK unit is eq. to 0.57 US standard drinks.

  • †Occasional drinkers: drinkers who declared not having drunk in the past 7 days.

  • ‡Within guidelines: women: <14 units/week (eq. 8 US standard drinks); men: <21 units/week (eq.12 US standard drinks).

  • §Hazardous: women: 14–35 units/week (eq. 8–20 US standard drinks); men: 21–49 units/week (eq. 12–28 US standard drinks).

  • ¶Harmful: women: >35 units/week (eq. 20 US standard drinks); men: >49 units/week (eq. 28 US standard drinks).

  • **MET-hour/week: metabolic equivalent per hour per week (energy expenditure from sports and walking during a week).

  • ††GHQ is a measure of the common mental health problems/domains of depression, anxiety, somatic symptoms and social withdrawal. Any score exceeding the threshold value of 3 is classed as achieving ‘psychiatric caseness’.

  • ‡‡Categories used for social class: professional or managerial technical, skilled non-manual, skilled manual, unskilled, others.

  • §§Categories used for cigarette smoking status: never regular smoker, ex-smoker, current smoker.

  • ¶¶Categories used for long-standing illness: yes, no.

  • ***Categories used for CVDs (stroke or IHD, including angina), diagnosed by a doctor: yes, no.

  • CVD, cardiovascular disease; eq., equivalent; GHQ, General Health Questionnaire; IHD, ischaemic heart disease; NA, not applicable.