Alcohol and pneumonia linked

A new meta-analysis of 14 studies offers “clear evidence” that drinking alcohol increases the risk of community-acquired pneumonia.

The meta-analysis, published last month, found that people who drank alcohol at all or in higher amounts were twice as likely (relative risk [RR] 1.83) to develop community-acquired pneumonia as those who drank no or lower amounts of alcohol respectively. The link was similar in the six studies that adjusted for smoking (RR 2.01) and the seven studies that adjusted for age (RR 1.90).

Four studies allowed the authors to estimate the dose-response relationship. They reported an 8 per cent increase in the risk of community-acquired pneumonia for every 10-20g of pure alcohol consumed per day. A UK unit contains 8g of pure alcohol.

The authors suggest that professionals managing pneumonia could “counsel reducing alcohol intake as a means to prevent further episodes”.

Another suggestion is that public health and other initiatives that address high alcohol consumption in more general terms “could add an increased risk of pneumonia as a further reason to reduce [alcohol] intake”.

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