Aims To examine socio-demographic associations of transitions from alcohol use to disorders and of remission from disorders in metropolitan China.
Design and setting Face-to-face interviewing by trained lay-interviewers on a multi-staged, clustered sample from the general population of Beijing and Shanghai, China.
Participants A total of 5201 adults aged 18–70 years and with household registration.
Measurements World Mental Health version of Composite International Diagnostic Interview.
Findings Lifetime prevalence estimates for alcohol use, regular use (at least 12 drinks in a year), DSM-IV abuse and dependence with abuse were 65.4%, 39.5% (60.4% of ever-drinkers), 4.6% (11.6% of regular users) and 0.9% (20.4% of lifetime alcohol abusers), respectively. These estimates were higher among respondents from the recent cohort; 64.3% and 36.9% respondents with a history of lifetime abuse and dependence respectively had remitted. The number of socio-demographic associations for the onset of each transitional stage decreased from alcohol use to alcohol dependence. Onset of ever-use was more common in respondents who were male, 18–50 years of age, with middle education level and never married, but less common among the previously married and students. First onset of regular use among those with ever-use was more common in respondents who were male, less than 50 years of age and never married, but less common in students. Being male and less than 50 years of age was associated with more alcohol abusers among regular users.
Conclusion This study was the first to reveal in a Chinese population that qualitatively different risk factors might operate during the different stages of progression from alcohol use to disorders. Further research is needed to clarify the mechanisms underlying these differences in order to guide prevention programmes.