Physicians' enquiries into their patients' alcohol use: public views and recalled experiences

Addiction. 2003 Jul;98(7):895-900. doi: 10.1046/j.1360-0443.2003.00410.x.


Aims: To examine public opinion and experiences of family physician involvement in alcohol use issues and to identify patient characteristics associated with these opinions and experiences.

Design: A secondary analysis of population survey data from the 1993 Ontario Alcohol and Other Drug Opinion Survey (OADOS), a random household telephone survey of adults in Ontario, Canada. Opinion and experiences regarding alcohol use were examined by drinking status.

Participants: All survey respondents (n = 941; 65% response rate). Population expansion weights were applied to ensure the sample's representativeness of the adult population of Ontario.

Measurements: Measures assessed the prevalence of opinions and experiences of family physicians: (1) asking patients about their drinking; (2) advising regular drinkers to cut down/quit; and (3) helping patients with alcohol problems. Self-reported past-year alcohol consumption and related problems were used to construct a categorical variable describing current drinking status.

Findings: Public opinion supported routine inquiries into patients' drinking habits and advising regular drinkers to cut down. However, the experience of being asked by a physician about drinking, being advised to cut down or being helped with alcohol problems was uncommon. Respondents' drinking status was associated with experiences of being asked about drinking and being advised to cut down.

Conclusions: Physician training should inform physicians that public opinion supports inquiries about drinking and advisement to reduce consumption, as it does not appear that family doctors are meeting these expectations of patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Educational Status
  • Family Practice
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Middle Aged
  • Ontario
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physician's Role