Alcohol Drinking Behaviour and Attitudes in Three Areas of Britain With Different Official Rates of Problem Drinking

Crawford, Alexander (1985) Alcohol Drinking Behaviour and Attitudes in Three Areas of Britain With Different Official Rates of Problem Drinking. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Background There is considerable variation in alcohol-related problems between the regions of Great Britain. Previous investigations have clearly shown that the magnitude of such problems is considerably higher in northern areas than in southern areas of Britain. Yet consideration of the survey literature (Chapter 4) demonstrates that the relationship between regional variations in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems within a British context is not well understood. Aims The aim of the project was to consider the drinking practices and attitudes in three areas of Britain which manifest markedly different rates of problem drinking. These were the Highland and Tayside regions of Scotland, and part of the South East Thames Health Board (effectively "East Kent" but referred to as "Kent") in England. Of the three areas Highland Region manifested the highest problem drinking rates and Kent the lowest rates. The specific aim of the project was to determine whether the consumption practices of persons in Highland region differed from those from the other two areas in such a way as to account for the different problem drinking rates. Method Between 8th September and 10th October 1982, 2349 adults aged 18 and over were randomly selected and interviewed about their alcohol consumption habits, experience of adverse consequences from drinking, and their attitudes and knowledge about alcohol use and misuse (Chapter 6). A commercial survey organisation was hired for this purpose. Response rates At 69% the response rate was modest in comparison to previous British general population surveys (Chapter 7). However, consideration of previous studies and of a follow-up survey (Appendix 8) of non-participants to the main survey suggested that the findings from this survey were valid. Results It was hypothesised that the Highlands would be characterised by one or more of the following: more drinkers; more heavy drinkers; more frequent drinking occasions; more binge drinking; higher mean consumption levels; faster consumption rates; more negative attitudes towards drinking; and greater awareness of alcohol-related problems within the community. None of the hypotheses relating to consumption were supported (Chapter 8). Indeed, if anything, Taysiders exhibited the greatest consumption levels, rates etc. There was mixed support for hypotheses relating to attitudes. Nor was there evidence that the drinking patterns of specific population sub-groups (Chapter 9) varied in accordance with problem drinking statistics. There was, however, a greater tendency for the Scots, irrespective of region to firstly, indulge in binge drinking and secondly, to report adverse consequences in the previous two years. Discussion A number of possible explanations were offered to account for the failure to relate variations in consumption patterns to variation in alcohol consumption patterns (Chapter 10). There was, for example, some admittedly crude (Appendix A) evidence that the effect of various biases upon alcohol consumption levels varied by region. Highlanders, for example, appeared to suffer greater memory loss for number of drinking days in the past week, while males from Kent were more likely to under-report when interviewed in the presence of another household member. There was also evidence that the Scots reacted differently to alcohol than did those from Kent. But it is not clear whether this reflected culturally based differences in expectations about alcohol; genetic differences in the reaction to alcohol; or the operation of other factors including diet, lack of exercise, smoking etc, which act in combination with alcohol to increase risk of harm. Regarding the latter explanation it is, for example, well established that the Scots exhibit a particularly unhealthy life style and are at a greater risk of a variety of diseases. There is also strong evidence that at least one of the commonly employed official indicators of problem drinking, namely hospital admissions for alcohol dependence, abuse and psychosis is suspect. Latcham (1985) in a companion study observed that Highlanders were 12.5x more likely to be admitted to a hospital bed with such a diagnosis than were people from Kent. But when psychiatric out- and day-patient rates were added to in-patient rates this difference disappeared. Clearly care has to be taken when interpreting official statistics relating to problem drinking. Policy implications are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Clinical psychology
Date of Award: 1985
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1985-77400
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2020 11:53
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2020 11:53

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