For Immediate Release

Embargoed AJPH research: Minimum legal drinking age risks, smoke-free home benefits, instances of analgesic overdose deaths

In this month’s release find research about the risks for young adults transitioning into minimum legal drinking age; the benefits of smoke-free homes for lower-income individuals; and neighborhood characteristics associated with overdose deaths from drugs like oxycodone.

EMBARGOED UNTIL October 17, 2013, 4 p.m. (EDT)

The December 2013 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, themed “Ethical Research and Minorities” includes studies, commentaries and editorials on topics ranging from research ethics with immigrant populations; to building trust among minority research participants; to inter-tribal research ethics. This issue received external funding support from a National Institutes of Health grant to the Center for Health Equity in the School of Public Health at University of Maryland.

American Journal of Public Health highlights:

1.    Young adults around minimum legal drinking age incur more hospital care related to alcohol use

2.    Smoke-free homes may reduce smoking among lower income individuals

3.    Death from drugs like oxycodone linked to economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, family fragmentation

Young adults around minimum legal drinking age incur more hospital care related to alcohol use

According to a new study from the American Journal of Public Health, young adults of minimum legal drinking age incur increased hospital-based care for alcohol related incidents. In particular, young adults transitioning into this age showed increases in hospital events for alcohol-use disorders, suicides related to alcohol and assaults.

The Ontario based study analyzed inpatient and emergency department events of Ontario hospitals from April 1, 2002 through March 31, 2007 among individuals 16 to 22 years of age. The data was drawn from the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s Hospital Morbidity Database and the National Ambulatory Care Reporting System. Ages were labeled in months and defined in terms of their relation to the minimum legal drinking age. 

Results indicated an increase in hospital events for young adults transitioning into the minimum legal drinking age. Specifically, the study found a significant 11 percent increase in inpatient and emergency department admissions for alcohol-use disorders among individuals reaching this age.

“Given the ongoing international debates about the minimum legal drinking age, our study makes an important contribution by providing comprehensive, population-based estimates of the impact of the minimum legal drinking age on serious and costly alcohol-related health service use in hospital settings,” the authors conclude.

[“Effects of the minimum legal drinking age on alcohol-related health service use in hospital settings in Ontario: A regression-discontinuity approach.” Russell C. Callaghan, PhD, Northern Medical Program, University of Northern British Columbia, British Columbia, Canada].

Smoke-free homes may reduce smoking among lower income individuals

A new study from the American Journal of Public Health finds that smoke-free homes may result in less smoking among low income smokers and more successful quitting.

The study used data from the 2006-2007 Tobacco Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey. Researchers analyzed data to determine if higher cigarette prices and smoke-free homes were associated with smoking behaviors and how they may vary among people of different income levels.

Results indicated that higher cigarette prices and living in smoke-free homes were associated with less smoking among all income levels. Further, only smoke-free homes were associated with sustained quitting success of more than 90 days. Unique to lower income individuals, results showed that smoke-free home options were related to less smoking and higher rates of successful quitting than those of the same income level not living in smoke-free homes. The study notes, however, that individuals living below the federal poverty line were less likely to live in smoke-free homes compared those of higher income levels.

“Our results underscore the need for interventions to encourage the adoption of smoke-free homes among low-income populations to increase cessation and prevent relapse. Such interventions may include public health interventions to increase regulation of secondhand smoking in public housing, or educational interventions to increase adoption of these restrictions among low-income populations,” the authors suggest.

[“The effectiveness of cigarette price and smoke-free homes on low-income smokers in United States.” John P. Pierce, PhD, Cancer Prevention and Control Program, Moores UCSD Cancer Center, University of California, San Diego].

Death from drugs like oxycodone linked to economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, family fragmentation

Death from analgesic overdose, including oxycodone and codeine, is more concentrated in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods with fragmented families than other types of deaths from unintentional causes, according to new research from the American Journal of Public Health. Yet, compared to heroin overdose deaths, analgesic overdoses were found to occur in higher-income neighborhoods.

Researchers analyzed data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City, to understand the role of neighborhood characteristics, including income distribution, quality of built environment and family fragmentation, in analgesic overdose deaths. Analgesic overdose fatalities were compared against heroin overdoses and non-overdose accidental deaths, which included instances like drownings, poisonings, falls and other accidents.

Results from the study found that while analgesic overdose deaths were more associated with economic disadvantaged neighborhoods, they still occurred in higher income, less fragmented and less unequal neighborhoods than heroin overdose deaths. Family fragmentation, which includes high divorce prevalence of single-parent homes in the neighborhood, was also associated with analgesic overdose deaths.

“Given the increasing rates of analgesic overdose fatalities and the systematic distribution of overdose risk across urban neighborhoods, there is a critical need for research that identifies the particular neighborhood mechanisms that may distinguish the risk of analgesic overdose from that of illicit drug overdose,” the researchers suggest.

[“Revisiting the role of the urban environment in substance use: The case of analgesic overdose fatalities.” Contact: Magdalena Cerda, DrPH, MPH, Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York].  

The articles above will be published online Oct. 17, 2013, at 4 p.m. (EDT)* by the American Journal of Public Health® under “First Look.”  “First Look” articles have undergone peer review, copyediting and approval by authors but have not yet been printed to paper or posted online by issue. The American Journal of Public Health is published by the American Public Health Association.

The American Journal of Public Health ® is the monthly journal of the American Public Health Association, the oldest and most diverse organization of public health professionals in the world. APHA is a leading publisher of books and periodicals promoting sound scientific standards, action programs and public policy to enhance health.

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