ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION AND HEAVY DRINKING: A SURVEY IN THREE ITALIAN VILLAGES

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Abstract

Aims

We investigated drinking habits, and heavy and problem drinking prevalence in a sample of individuals attending the consulting rooms of local General Practitioners in three Italian villages.

Methods

The samples were selected to be representative of the entire population of the three villages. Information on alcohol-drinking patterns was collected using a questionnaire that included a masked form of the CAGE rating scale. According to the frequency of alcohol intake, subjects were grouped in three categories: abstainers, occasional drinkers, and daily drinkers. In agreement with WHO guidelines, 40 g/day for males and 20 g/day for females were taken as cut-off for ‘heavy drinking’ and consumptions of >80 g/day for males and 40 g/day for females were used to define ‘problem drinking’.

Results

A total of 2972 individuals were included in the survey (19% of the population). Of these, 44% were abstinent, 20% occasional drinkers, and 36% daily drinkers. Daily drinking was found to be more common in males than in females but heavy drinking was significantly higher in females compared with males (P ≥ 0.0001). The problem drinkers were 12% of the entire population and the CAGE-positive subjects (≥2 positive answers) were 3.5%.

Conclusions

Our data indicate that alcohol drinking is widely diffused in the three communities. A large layer of the population drinks above the WHO-established cut-off. The incidence of heavy and problem drinking seems to have significant gender and regional differences that are important to consider when planning effective prevention programmes.

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