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Int J Epidemiol. 1996 Aug;25(4):770-4.

Self-reported alcohol intake using two different question formats in southeastern New England.

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Division of Health Education, Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, Pawtucket 02860, USA.



Quantitative measures of alcohol intake are not always available in population studies.


The authors evaluated whether a question on alcohol intake embedded within a general health survey could be used as a surrogate marker for alcohol intake. We compared alcohol intake assessed with a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) with alcohol intake assessed with a simple dichotomous survey question in a population-based sample.


The study population consisted of 755 men and 1164 women from two communities in southeastern New England in the USA. There was strong agreement between the two alcohol questions for the classification of nondrinkers (98.1%). When participants were classified according to the quantity of alcohol consumed on the FFQ, the ability of the simple question to identify drinkers improved in a dose-response fashion. The Kappa statistic was 0.08 (P < 0.001), 0.38 (P < 0.001), and 0.81 (P < 0.001) for low, medium, and high consumers of alcohol, respectively.


These results suggest that the survey alcohol question provides a useful qualitative measure of categorizing nondrinkers and identifying drinkers who consume more than one drink per day. In population studies where quantitative measures of alcohol intake may not be available a survey alcohol question may prove useful when alcohol intake is likely to confound results, and adjustment of the data is needed.

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