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Contemp Drug Probl. 2009 Oct;36(3-4). pii: 75056015.

Graduated Frequencies alcohol measures for monitoring consumption patterns: Results from an Australian national survey and a US diary validity study.

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Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute, Emeryville, CA.


We investigate several types of graduated frequency (GF) instruments for monitoring drinking patterns. Two studies with 12-month GF measures and daily data were used: (i) the Australian 2004 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (n = 24,109 aged 12+; 22,546 with GF and over 8000 with yesterday data) and (ii) a US methodological study involving a 28-day daily diary plus GF summary measures drawn from the National Alcohol Survey (n = 3,025 screened, 119 eligible study completers). The NDSHS involved (i) "drop and collect" self-completed forms with random sampling methods; the Measurement study (ii) screened 3+ drinkers by telephone and collected 28-day drinking diaries and pre- and post-diary 28-day GFs. We compared mean values for the GF quantity ranges from yesterday's drinks (study i) and 28-day diaries (study ii), also examining volume influence. Using Yesterday's drinking, Australian results showed GF quantity range means close to arithmetic midpoints and volume effects only for the lowest two levels (1-2, and 3-4 drinks; p < .001). U.S. calibration results on the GF using 28-day diaries were similar, with a volume effect only at these low quantity levels (p < .001). Means for the highest quantity thresholds were 23.5 drinks for the 20+ (10 gram) drink level (Australia) and 15.5 drinks for the 12+ (14 g) drink level (US). In the US study, summary GF frequency and volume were highly consistent with diary-based counterparts. A conclusion is that algorithms for computing volume may be refined using validation data. We suggest measurement methods may be improved by taking better account of empirical drink ethanol content.


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