Effectiveness of structured questionnaires for screening heavy drinking in middle-aged women

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2006 Nov;30(11):1884-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2006.00233.x.


Background: There is a need for an effective and feasible alcohol screening instrument. The aim of the study was to evaluate how the abbreviated versions of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) questionnaire perform in comparison with the original AUDIT and what the optimal cutoffs are when screening for heavy drinking among women.

Methods: All the 40-year-old women in the city of Tampere, Finland, are invited yearly for a health screening. From 1 year, data from 894 women (response rate 68.2%) invited for a health screening were utilized in the study. The original 10-item AUDIT, AUDIT-C, Five Shot, AUDIT-PC, AUDIT-3, AUDIT-QF, and CAGE were evaluated against the Timeline Followback. Consumption of at least 140 g of absolute ethanol per week on average during the past month was considered heavy drinking.

Results: In the Timeline Followback, the mean+/-SD weekly reported alcohol consumption was 45+/-67 g (range 0-936 g) of absolute ethanol. Of the women, 6.2% (55/894) were heavy drinkers. The optimal combination of sensitivity and specificity was reached for the AUDIT with cutoff > or =6, for the AUDIT-C with cutoff > or =5, for the Five Shot with cutoff > or =2.0, for the AUDIT-PC with cutoff > or =4, and for the AUDIT-QF with cutoff > or =4. When choosing the optimal cutoffs, the AUDIT-C, the Five Shot, the AUDIT-PC, and the AUDIT-QF performed as well as the 10-item AUDIT. With these cutoffs, sensitivities were 0.84 to 0.93 and specificities were 0.83 to 0.90. The AUDIT-3 and the CAGE did not perform as well as the other questionnaires.

Conclusions: The 10-item AUDIT, AUDIT-C, Five Shot, AUDIT-PC, and AUDIT-QF seem to be equally effective tools in screening for heavy drinking among middle-aged women. However, their applicability is achieved only if the cutoffs are tailored according to gender.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*