How Much is Too Much? A Methodological Investigation of the Literature on Alcohol Consumption

30 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2023

See all articles by Stefano Castriota

Stefano Castriota

University of Pisa

Paolo Frumento

University of Pisa - Department of Political Sciences

Francesco Suppressa

University of Siena

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 6, 2023

Abstract

Until a few years ago, moderate alcohol consumption was thought to have (mild) beneficial effects on health. However, some recent studies have suggested that “there is no safe level” of alcohol intake. Consequently, public health institutions have responded by advising against any level of alcohol use and suggesting governments a number of policies to reduce the overall alcohol consumption. Nonetheless, medical studies suffer from a variety of methodological issues that could undermine the reliability of the findings, especially when focusing on low-intake levels. We apply a search algorithm to extract 19,981 Confidence Intervals (CIs) from 6,763 medical abstracts, and show the existence of a clear publication bias which appears to have even increased and not decreased, in recent years. Further, we assess the quality of a sample of articles, showing the presence of several limitations such as omitted variable bias, miscalculation of alcohol intake, use of linear in place of non-linear models, and lack of validation of Mendelian Randomization (MR) assumptions. We conclude that the methodological limitations of the literature preclude us from claiming that ”there is no safe level” of alcohol intake.

Keywords: Alcohol, Health, safe level, publication bias, statistical bias

JEL Classification: I12, I18

Suggested Citation

Castriota, Stefano and Frumento, Paolo and Suppressa, Francesco, How Much is Too Much? A Methodological Investigation of the Literature on Alcohol Consumption (July 6, 2023). CEIS Working Paper No. 560, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4502032 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4502032

Stefano Castriota (Contact Author)

University of Pisa ( email )

Lungarno Pacinotti, 43
Pisa PI, 56126
Italy

Paolo Frumento

University of Pisa - Department of Political Sciences ( email )

Lungarno Pacinotti, 43
Pisa PI, 56126
Italy

Francesco Suppressa

University of Siena ( email )

Via Banchi di Sotto, 55
Siena, 53100
Italy

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