Temporal patterns of alcohol consumption and attempts to reduce alcohol intake in England

BMC Public Health. 2016 Sep 1;16:917. doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-3542-7.


Background: The Alcohol Toolkit Study (ATS) is a monthly survey of approximately 1700 adults per month aged 16 years of age or more in England. We aimed to explore patterns of alcohol consumption and motivation to reduce alcohol use in England throughout the year.

Methods: Data from 38,372 participants who answered questions about alcohol consumption (March 2014 to January 2016) were analysed using weighted regression using the R survey package. Questions assessed alcohol consumption (AUDIT-C) and attempts to reduce consumption.

Results: Sixty-seven percent of participants reported using alcohol, with a small negative trend of about 2 % reduction over 12 months in the studied period (P < 0.01). These include ~25 % higher risk drinkers and ~10 % regular binge drinkers. About 20 % of higher risk drinkers indicated they were attempting to reduce their alcohol consumption. Attempts were lowest in December (-20 %; 95 % CI 0-35 %), but increases significantly in January (+41 %; 95 % CI 16-73 %) compared with other months (P < 0.001), indicating a small net gain; at least in attempts to reduce. However, there was no evidence that the increased motivation in January was accompanied by a reported decrease in consumption or binge drinking events. This could be an artefact of the use of AUDIT questions, but could also reflect a disconnect between attempting to reduce alcohol consumption and subsequent change; maybe as a result of lack of continuing support.

Conclusions: January is associated with moderate increased attempts to reduce alcohol consumption. However, we find little evidence of a change in alcohol consumption. In part, this may be due to temporal insensitivity of the AUDIT questions.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / epidemiology
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / prevention & control*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / psychology*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Regression Analysis
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult