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CMAJ. 1997 Dec 1;157(11):1529-35.

Alcohol disorders in Canada as indicated by the CAGE questionnaire.

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  • 1Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS. Christiane.Poulin@dal.ca



To describe alcohol disorders in the general Canadian population, using as a standard indicator the CAGE questionnaire (Have you felt you needed to cut down on your drinking? Have you felt annoyed by criticism of your drinking? Have you felt guilty about drinking? Have you felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning [eye-opener]?).


Secondary analysis of data from Canada's Alcohol and Other Drugs Survey (CADS), a national telephone survey conducted in 1994 of a representative sample of 12,155 people aged 15 years or more.


The CAGE questionnaire was administered to 5894 drinkers who had consumed alcohol in the 12 months before the CADS survey.


Respondents with positive (2 or more affirmative responses) and negative results on the CAGE questionnaire were compared as to demographic characteristics, alcohol consumption and harmful consequences of their drinking. Independent predictors of a positive result were identified by means of logistic regression analysis.


A total of 5.8% of CAGE-tested current drinkers had a positive result on the past-year CAGE in 1994. The proportion of respondents reporting alcohol-related problems in one or more areas of their life was 7 times greater among drinkers with a positive result on the CAGE questionnaire than among those with a negative result (66.8% v. 9.5%) (p < 0.0001). When all demographic characteristics were controlled for simultaneously, male sex, residence in the Atlantic provinces, Quebec or the Prairies, single/never married or divorced/separated marital status, and low education level were found to be independent risk factors for a positive result on the CAGE questionnaire. About 85% of the respondents with a positive result had not sought help for their drinking. Applying the estimated sensitivity and specificity of the CAGE questionnaire in detecting alcohol dependence, as per criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, in a general US population, the authors estimated that 4.1% of Canadians had an alcohol dependence in 1994.


The large proportion of current drinkers with a positive result on the CAGE questionnaire who did not seek help for their drinking underscores the need for identification and brief interventions by physicians. Further research is needed to elucidate the underlying reasons for regional differences in CAGE status.

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