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J Stud Alcohol. 1999 Sep;60(5):667-74.

A cluster analysis of alcohol-related attitudes and behaviors in the general population.

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Department of Journalism and Technical Communication, Colorado State University, Fort Collins 80523, USA.



Alcohol use typologies have previously focused on chronic alcohol abusers and alcohol-dependent populations. This empirical typology was created to profile lifestyle patterns associated with nonclinical patterns of alcohol use.


This study used two surveys sent to a commercial mailback panel, sampled to construct a study population demographically representative of the general U.S. population (N = 2,910). A K-means cluster analysis of alcohol use predictor variables and alcohol use generated the typology.


The results suggest five distinct psychobehavioral clusters, referred to by the modal patterns of alcohol use for each cluster: nondrinkers, light drinkers, moderate drinkers, episodic drinkers and regular heavy drinkers. These clusters were found to have predictive validity using related health behaviors, psychosocial variables, personality self-descriptors, and media use as criteria. In particular, moderate drinkers had double the income of any other cluster and showed consistently healthy exercise, cigarette use, and diet patterns as well as a relatively high ranking of health as a personal value. Episodic drinkers had the highest levels of sensation-seeking and drug use and were not health oriented in values and behaviors, although their total weekly consumption was only marginally greater than the moderate drinkers.


The profile of the moderate drinker cluster is consistent with concerns about lifestyle confounds in the relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and cardiovascular health. The episodic drinker profile is consistent with relatively high risk behaviors; this cluster may be a good target for harm-reduction education and intervention efforts.

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