The assessment of alcoholism in surveys of the general community: What are we measuring? some insights from the australian twin panel interview survey

Andrew C. Heath*, Kathleen K. Bucholz, Wendy S. Slutske, Pamela A F Madden, Stephen H. Dinwiddie, Michael P. Dunne, Dixie B. Statham, John B. Whitfield, Nicholas G. Martin, Lindon J. Eaves

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations

Abstract

The majority of cases identified by commonly used alcoholism criteria in general community surveys are mild ones, with few alcohol-related problems. We illustrate this using data on 2088 Australian male twins aged 28-89 (mean age = 42.7), including 1846 who reported more than minimal alcohol exposure when surveyed by telephone in 1992-3. Using latent class analysis of alcoholism symptoms reported by these twins, we identify five classes of respondent: those with no alcohol-related problems (49% of the sample, if we include those with minimal alcohol exposure); excessive drinkers (33%; and individuals with a history of mild (14% moderate (3% or severe problems (1% Symptom endorsement profiles associated with these different classes are illustrated. The two most severe classes constitute a substantial majority of those reporting alcoholism treatment, but a minority of those reporting alcohol-related auto accidents or injuries, recurrent hazardous alcohol use, or alcohol-related arrests. The excessive drinkers and persons with mild problems account for a much higher proportion of persons experiencing these outcomes, and thus represent an important group to study from a public health perspective. The use of latent class analysis to improve case detection using structured or semi-structured diagnostic instruments is also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-307
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Review of Psychiatry
Volume6
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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