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Beliefs and attitudes about addressing alcohol consumption in health care: A population survey in England

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Amy O'DonnellORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2018 The Author(s). Background: Despite robust evidence for their effectiveness, it has proven difficult to translate alcohol prevention activities into routine health care practice. Previous research has identified numerous provider-level barriers affecting implementation, but these have been less extensively investigated in the wider population. We sought to: (1) investigate patients' beliefs and attitudes to being asked about alcohol consumption in health care; and (2) identify the characteristics of those who are supportive of addressing alcohol consumption in health care. Methods: Cross-sectional household interviews conducted as part of the national Alcohol Toolkit Study in England between March and April 2017. Data were collected on age, gender, social grade, drinking category, and beliefs and attitudes to being asked about alcohol in routine health care. Unadjusted and multivariate-adjusted logistic regression models were performed to investigate associations between socio-demographic characteristics and drinking category with being "pro-routine" (i.e. 'agree completely' that alcohol consumption should be routinely addressed in health care) or "pro-personal" (i.e. 'agree completely' that alcohol is a personal matter and not something health care providers should ask about). Results: Data were collected on 3499 participants, of whom 50% were "pro-routine" and 10% were "pro-personal". Those in social grade C1, C2, D and E were significantly less likely than those in AB of being "pro-routine". Women were less likely than men to be "pro-personal", and those aged 35-44 or 65 years plus more likely to be "pro-personal" compared with participants aged 16-24. Respondents aged 65 plus were twice as likely as those aged 16-24 to agree completely that alcohol consumption is a personal matter and not something health care providers should ask about (OR 2.00, 95% CI 1.34-2.99). Conclusions: Most adults in England agree that health care providers should routinely ask about patients' alcohol consumption. However, older adults and those in lower socio-economic groups are less supportive. Drinking status appears to have limited impact on whether people believe that alcohol is a personal matter and not something health care providers should ask about. Registration: Open Science Framework (

Publication metadata

Author(s): O'Donnell A, Abidi L, Brown J, Karlsson N, Nilsen P, Roback K, Skagerstrom J, Thomas K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMC Public Health

Year: 2018

Volume: 18

Issue: 1

Online publication date: 21/03/2018

Acceptance date: 08/03/2018

Date deposited: 10/04/2018

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2458

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd.


DOI: 10.1186/s12889-018-5275-2


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