Improving measurement of the distribution of alcohol consumption across locations, beverages, and drinkers in England and Scotland: a cross-sectional telephone survey

Li, J., Holmes, J., Meier, P. and MacKintosh, A. M. (2014) Improving measurement of the distribution of alcohol consumption across locations, beverages, and drinkers in England and Scotland: a cross-sectional telephone survey. Lancet, 384(S44), (doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(14)62170-x)

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Background Most UK estimates of alcohol consumption come from population-based surveys, which estimate mean weekly consumption by beverage type, but underestimate total consumption compared with sales data. This study aimed to use data collected via a novel survey method developed in New Zealand, recording beverage-specific consumption by location to better understand where and how alcohol is consumed by drinkers in England and Scotland. Methods Between September, 2012, and February, 2013, 3477 adult drinkers (aged 16–65 years) divided evenly between England and Scotland were recruited through random digit dialling. They were interviewed via a cross-sectional landline telephone survey with consumption recorded for 13 alcoholic beverages at 14 locations (measures validated through cognitive interviewing). Through this novel method, a quantity-frequency measure of self-reported units of alcohol consumed within the past 6 months by beverage and location was derived. Descriptive statistical analyses describe how total units consumed were distributed across six locations, five beverage types, and demographic groups. Data were weighted to reflect the age, sex, and employment-status of English and Scottish drinkers. Findings Over half (62%) of all alcohol consumed by English and Scottish respondents was within their own or someone else's home. Roughly a quarter of all alcohol consumed at home was wine. Most alcohol consumed by men was beer whereas women drank more wine. Only 24% of all alcohol was consumed in pubs, bars, and nightclubs, and just 12% of all alcohol was consumed by harmful drinkers in these locations, the primary focus of policy concern. Interpretation UK alcohol issues are often framed in terms of binge drinking in on-trade settings (pubs, bars). We found that most drinking occurs in people's own homes. Through its novel method of improving participants' recall of drinking through its breakdown of consumption into multiple locations, our survey underestimated the level of drinking to a much smaller degree than previous estimates when compared with sales data. The identification of the places and contexts of risky drinking can allow for public health interventions aimed at reducing alcohol-related harms in locations such as the home (eg, altering container sizes, televised advertising) to be more targeted to drinking patterns of concern.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Funding: Medical Research Council National Prevention Research Initiative (MR/J000523/1).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Meier, Professor Petra
Authors: Li, J., Holmes, J., Meier, P., and MacKintosh, A. M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Lancet
ISSN (Online):1474-547X
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