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Alcohol Alcohol. 2008 Nov-Dec;43(6):713-8. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agn074. Epub 2008 Oct 1.

Not all drinks are created equal: implications for alcohol assessment in India.

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Alcohol Research Group, 6475 Christie Avenue, Suite 400, Emeryville, CA 94608, USA.



There is sparse literature on drink alcohol content in developing countries. This study documented detailed information on drink sizes and ethanol content of alcoholic beverages consumed in three different parts of India.


Data primarily from formative phases of studies on alcohol use patterns in the states of Delhi, Rajasthan and Goa are reported. Participant observation and semi-structured interviews with key informants and drinking respondents were used to assess different beverage types and to empirically measure actual drink sizes as poured. Investigation of ethanol content included the use of biochemical analyses, the alcoholmeter and the Analox Analyser AM3. Respondents interviewed in the post-formative phase in one study were also asked to define the volume of their drinks by indicating pour levels in select drinking vessels.


A wide range of alcoholic drinks were documented that varied in ethanol concentration across and within sites. Drink sizes, particularly for high-strength beverages, varied both by study site and respondent, with pours of distilled spirits on average being larger than standard measures.


Estimates of both mean volume of alcohol consumption and heavy drinking amounts are influenced by variability in alcohol concentration and respondent-defined pour sizes. The variation in drink alcohol content found across Indian states indicates that prior to conducting quantitative surveys, preliminary work on sources of drink alcohol content variation should be undertaken to tailor measurement tools to specific beverages and drinking practices observed. Recommendations for alcohol research in developing countries are provided.

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