• Consumption;
  • frequency;
  • larger quantity drinkers;
  • mean;
  • median;
  • socio-economic status;
  • typical occasion quantity;
  • urban residents


Aims  To investigate alcohol drinking among urban Chinese and any changes between 2002 and 2005.

Design  Two identical face-to-face interviews were carried out with two random samples with 2327 and 2613 respondents, respectively.

Setting  Respondents were selected randomly from Wuhan City, Hubei province, China, between May and June 2002, and June and August 2005.

Participants  Fifteen to 65-year-old urban Chinese adults.

Measurements  Prevalence of drinking, frequency of drinking, typical occasion quantity, volume of annual consumption and heavier drinking were the main measures.

Findings  Nearly three-quarters (90% for men and 55% for women) were current alcohol drinkers in 2005, and the prevalence of drinking alcohol had increased significantly since 2002 among both men and women; the largest increases occurred in the younger group (18–19 years) and among older women. There was no change in the frequency of drinking, the average quantities consumed by drinkers and the volume of absolute alcohol consumed by drinkers over this 3-year period. However, reflecting the increased prevalence of drinkers, the median volumes of absolute alcohol consumed in the sample as a whole had increased significantly. Older males were more likely to be categorized as larger-quantity drinkers: 30–65-year-old men accounted for 63%. There was also an increase over time in the proportion of larger-quantity drinkers: the proportion of male larger-quantity drinkers increased from 27% in 2002 to 35% in 2005.

Conclusions  In the urban setting of Wuhan, over the time-period 2002–05, there was an increase in prevalence of drinkers, particularly among younger people and older women. The average frequency and quantities consumed by drinkers did not change over this period; among drinking men the volumes of alcohol consumed were comparable to those in much more saturated commercial alcohol markets. The results did, however, show an increase over time in the proportion of older men who were engaged in heavier drinking and, in 2005, the proportion exceeded that in more saturated markets. These data suggest that, given the relatively high levels of consumption among established drinking groups, increases in the prevalence of drinkers over time may result in increases in harm if effective policies are not implemented.