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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2007 Jan;68(1):6-10.

Individuals with very low alcohol consumption: a heterogeneous group.

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Institute of Epidemiology, GSF Research Center for Environment and Health, Ingolstaedter Landstrasse 1, D-85764 Neuherberg, Germany.



This study investigated differences regarding degree, duration, and motivation of abstinence within a group of individuals with very low alcohol consumption. Reliability of self-reported alcohol abstinence was examined.


Interview data on alcohol intake and abstinence were investigated in 412 male and 377 female population-representative participants of the cross-sectional KORA/ MAGiC-Control study. This study was conducted in 2002 in the region of Augsburg, Germany, with participants who were 28-77 years old.


The group of persons with very low alcohol consumption (0 to </=3 g per day; n = 312) comprised 73 nonlifetime abstainers and 40 lifetime abstainers. Duration of abstinence in nonlifetime abstainers ranged from less than 1 year to 50 years (median = 13 years). The median proportion of their adult life, during which nonlifetime abstainers had been abstinent, was 35% for individuals who were 58 years or older and 37% for younger individuals. Motivation for abstinence differed between lifetime abstainers and nonlifetime abstainers (p < .0001). Lifetime abstainers were more likely than nonlifetime abstainers to cite negative or indifferent feelings toward use of alcohol (76% vs 30%; p < .0001), whereas nonlifetime abstainers mentioned medical (42% vs 16%; p = .004) and other reasons (28% vs 8%; p = .009) more often than did lifetime abstainers. Using data from a prior survey, 91% of teetotalers reliably answered the question on alcohol abstinence.


Direct questioning about alcohol abstinence was acceptable and participants' answers were reliable. Heterogeneity within teetotalers was confirmed for starting age of abstinence and motivation. Future epidemiological studies should put more emphasis on exact categorization of alcohol consumption and abstinence.

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