Article

Descriptors and accounts of alcohol consumption: Methodological issues piloted with female undergraduate drinkers in Scotland

Abertay University, Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom
Health Education Research (Impact Factor: 1.66). 03/2007; 22(1):27-36. DOI: 10.1093/her/cyl037
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

Excessive drinking among young women continues to attract adverse media attention and is the target of UK government-led initiatives.
Reliable research on alcohol consumption is needed to inform/evaluate public health interventions. This pilot study, investigating
descriptors of alcohol drinking in female Scottish undergraduate students, comprised: (i) self-completed questionnaire survey
(n = 95) and (ii) interview plus test pouring of a ‘drink’ (n = 19). Self-reports by 70% of drinkers (n = 90) indicated alcohol consumption for the ‘week past’ meriting classification as ‘binge’ drinking, and 83% of this group
reported drinking in this fashion at least fortnightly. However, binge drinking may be underestimated since poured drinks
were measured to be on average double the alcohol content of a standard drink, drinking often occurred outwith licensed premises
and respondents preferred to quantify consumption in (fractions of) bottles, rather than glasses. Qualitative analysis showed
that interviewees oriented to drinking as an accountable practice but were unaware of the clinical definition of binge drinking.
They defined it in terms of the effect of alcohol consumed on individual behaviour, not in absolute quantities. Given the
unreliability of self-reported consumption, future health surveys and initiatives should consider ‘quantifying’ alcohol in
a way more meaningful to the population of interest, in terms of effect.

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