Disparities in the receipt of alcohol brief intervention: The intersectionality of sex, age, and race/ethnicity

Addiction. 2023 Jul;118(7):1258-1269. doi: 10.1111/add.16195. Epub 2023 Apr 11.


Background and aims: The increasing trend in alcohol consumption among women, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is of growing concern. Screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment in primary care is an efficacious and cost-effective treatment approach for unhealthy alcohol use. However, disparities exist in delivery of brief interventions by sex, age and race/ethnicity. This study measures brief intervention rates among eligible patients by sex, age and race/ethnicity and their intersectionality, in the context of a program of systematic alcohol screening and brief intervention program in adult primary care in a large, integrated health-care delivery system.

Design, setting and participants: This was a population-based observational study among primary care clinics in an integrated health-care delivery system in Northern California, USA. The participants comprised adult (18+) patients (n = 287 551) screening positive for unhealthy alcohol use between January 2014 and December 2017.

Measurements: Receipt of brief intervention, patient and provider characteristics from electronic health records.

Findings: Multi-level logistic regression showed that women had lower odds of receiving brief intervention than men among all age, racial/ethnic groups and drinking levels. Sex differences were greater among those aged 35-49 years [odds ratio (OR) = 0.67, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.64, 0.69]) and 50-65 years (OR = 0.69, 95% CI =0.66, 0.72) than among other age groups. Sex differences in odds of receiving brief intervention were greater for the Latino/Hispanic group for women versus men (OR = 0.69, 95% CI = 0.66, 0.72) and smaller for the Asian/Pacific Islander group (OR = 0.76, 95% CI = 0.72, 0.81).

Conclusion: In the United States, compared with men, women appear to have lower odds of receiving brief intervention for unhealthy alcohol use across all age groups, particularly during middle age. Black women and Latina/Hispanic women appear to be less likely to receive brief intervention than women in other race/ethnicity groups. Receipt of brief intervention does not appear to differ by drinking levels between men and women.

Keywords: Alcohol consumption levels; alcohol screening; brief intervention; primary care; race; sex.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intersectional Framework
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • United States
  • White