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BMJ Open. 2018 Jul 16;8(7):e023632. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-023632.

Comparison of self-reported measures of alcohol-related dependence among young Swiss men: a study protocol for a cross-sectional controlled sample.

Author information

School of Health Sciences (HEdS-FR), HES-SO University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland, Fribourg, Switzerland.
Center for the Understanding of Social Processes, University of Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
Forensic Toxicology and Chemistry Unit, Lausanne and Geneva Universities, Centre of Legal Medicine, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Alcohol Treatment Centre, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
University of the West of England, Bristol, UK.
Division of Prison Health, Geneva University Hospitals and University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
Life Course and Social Inequality Research Center, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.



Short screenings of alcohol-related dependence are needed for population-based assessments. A clinical interview constitutes a reliable diagnosis often seen as gold standard, but it is costly and time consuming and as such, not suitable for population-based assessments. Therefore, self-reported questionnaires are needed (eg, alcohol use disorder (AUD) as in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) 5), but their reliability is questionable. Recent studies called for more evidence-based measurements for population-based screening (eg, heavy alcohol use over time (HAU)). This study aims to test the reliability of different self-reported measures of alcohol use.


Based on stratified random selection, 280 participants will be recruited from the French-speaking subgroup of the Swiss National Science Foundation-supported Cohort Study on Substance Use and Risk Factors (C-SURF). This cohort is a population-based sample of young Swiss men in their mid-20s (n=2668). The sample size calculation is based on a proportion non-inferiority test (alpha=5%, power=80%, margin of equivalence=10%, difference in sensitivity between self-reported AUD and HAU=5%, correlation between AUD and HAU=0.35, and drop-outs=15%). Assessment will include a clinical interview as the gold standard of alcohol-related dependence, self-reported alcohol measures (HAU, AUD and drinking patterns), biomarkers as gold standards of chronic excessive drinking, and health outcomes. To assess the validity of the self-reported alcohol measures, sensitivity analyses will be run. The associations between alcohol-related measures and health outcomes will be tested. A non-response analysis will be run using the previous waves of the C-SURF study using logistic regressions.


The study protocol has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland (no. 2017-00776). The results will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals and presented at national and international conferences.


alcohol abuse; alcohol dependence; c-surf; general population; measurement; psychometrics

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