Effects of age and gender on the relationship between alcohol use disorder and somatic diseases: a national register study in Norway

BMJ Open. 2021 Nov 10;11(11):e050608. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-050608.


Objective: This study aimed to examine how age and gender moderate the associations between alcohol use disorders (AUD) and several somatic diseases.

Design and setting: We performed a retrospective, register-based cohort study with 6-year follow-up of patients with AUD and the general population. Data were acquired from the Norwegian Patient Registry. Cox regressions were used to estimate HRs of somatic diseases.

Participants: Patients with AUD (17 023; 0.4%) were compared with the population without AUD (4 271 559; 99.6%), with adults aged 18 years or older who were registered residents of Norway on 1 January 2008.

Main outcomes: Dichotomous variables of 12 specific somatic diseases (cardiovascular diseases, endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic diseases, cancer, and infectious diseases) were assessed. Diagnoses were set in specialist healthcare services.

Results: Patients with AUD, compared with a population without AUD, experienced a significantly greater burden of all studied somatic diseases. Middle-aged adults with AUD had increased risks (p<0.05) for hypertension; ischaemic diseases; pulmonary diseases; cerebrovascular diseases; malnutrition; metabolic disorders; cancer; and influenza and pneumonia than younger and older adults with AUD. For most somatic diseases, we found no differences between younger versus older adults with AUD, and between females versus males with AUD (p>0.05). Males with AUD had significantly higher risks for pulmonary heart diseases (HR=3.9, 95% CI 3.3 to 4.6) and metabolic disorders (HR 4.7, 95% CI 4.5 to 5.0), while females with AUD had a significantly higher risk for viral hepatitis (HR=4.4, 95% CI 3.8 to 5.1).

Conclusions: Age moderated the associations between AUD and most somatic diseases, with middle-aged adults with AUD having a greater increased risk of somatic diseases compared with younger and older adults with AUD. Gender only moderated associations between AUD and pulmonary heart diseases, metabolic disorders and viral hepatitis. This has implications for the prioritisation of somatic resources among patients with AUD.

Keywords: epidemiology; public health; substance misuse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alcoholism*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies