Abstention, Alcohol Consumption, and Common Somatic Symptoms: the Hordaland Health Study (HUSK)
The association between alcohol consumption and somatic symptoms is unclear.
The aim of this study was to examine the cross-sectional association between the whole continuum of alcohol consumption, ranging from abstention to high-level consumption, and the overall level of common somatic symptoms in a large population-based sample.
Data are from the Hordaland Health Study, conducted in 1997–1999 with participants aged 40–46 years (N = 15,018). The main exposure was a categorical variable based on self-reported abstention and alcohol consumption, while self-reported overall level of somatic symptoms was the outcome. The outcome was defined by the mean overall frequency of 17 commonly experienced somatic symptoms. Potential confounders included sociodemographic information, somatic diagnoses, and health-related behaviors. Linear regression models were computed in the statistical analyses.
We found no association between different levels of alcohol consumption and overall level of somatic symptoms. Abstainers reported, however, a higher overall level of somatic symptoms compared to those who consumed alcohol at any level, even after adjusting for potential confounders. Investigating the individual somatic symptoms, we found that the abstainers had a higher frequency of 10 of the 17 symptoms compared to the remainder, while higher frequency was found for only 2 somatic symptoms among the 5 % with the highest alcohol consumption.
We found no support for an association between alcohol consumption and overall level of somatic symptoms. There was, however, a small association between being abstinent and increased level of somatic symptoms. These findings may have several different explanations, and further investigation is called for.