Knowledge Gaps and Acceptability of Abbreviated Alcohol Screening in General Practice: A Cross-sectional Survey of Hazardous and Non-hazardous Drinkers

Alexander Isted; Francesco Fiorini; Taavi Tillmann


BMC Fam Pract. 2015;16(72) 

In This Article


Background: General practice provides a unique setting where hazardous alcohol consumption can be screened for and behavioural interventions can be implemented in a continuous care model. Our aim was to assess in a general practice population, the prevalence of hazardous drinking, the knowledge and attitudes surrounding alcohol, and the acceptability of brief interventions in alcohol.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey in a practice in South London, performed as part of a wider service evaluation. Questionnaires were offered to adult patients awaiting their appointments. Responses were stratified according to hazardous drinking, as per the abbreviated 'Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test' (AUDIT-C).

Results: Of 179 respondents (30 % male), 34 % yielded an AUDIT-C ≥5 and 18 % reported that they never drink alcohol. Male and Caucasian patients were more likely to self-report hazardous drinking, who in turn were more likely to believe in the health benefits of moderate consumption. Little over half of patents thought that alcohol is a risk factor for cancer and were misinformed of its calorific content, suggesting two targets for future improvement. Patients' knowledge about what is a single 'unit' of alcohol was below that expected by random chance 66 % agreed that alcohol screening should feature in all GP consultations.

Conclusions: While awareness of alcohol related health risks is generally good, future efforts may benefit from focusing on the association with cancer and calories. Our findings question the utility of the 'unit' system, as well as dissemination of suggested 'health benefits' of moderate consumption. General practice initiatives in screening and brief advice for alcohol deserve further study.