Aim: To review and discuss measurement issues in survey assessment of alcohol consumption for epidemiological studies.
Methods: The following areas are considered: implications of cognitive studies of question answering such as self-referenced schemata of drinking, reference period and retrospective recall, as well as the assets and liabilities of types of current (e.g. food frequency, quantity-frequency, graduated frequencies and heavy drinking indicators) and life-time drinking measures. Finally we consider units of measurement and improving measurement by detailing the ethanol content of drinks in natural settings.
Results and conclusions: Cognitive studies suggest inherent limitations in the measurement enterprise, yet diary studies show promise of broadly validating methods that assess a range of drinking amounts per occasion; improvements in survey measures of drinking in the life course are indicated; attending in detail to on- and off-premise drink pour sizes and ethanol concentrations of various beverages shows promise of narrowing the coverage gap plaguing survey alcohol measurement.