Background: Surrogate, nonbeverage alcohols, provide a cheap and concentrated source of ethanol for drinking that has been associated with premature mortality. The aim of this study was to provide the first estimate of the prevalence of surrogate alcohol consumption in a national population sample of Estonia.
Methods: The Estonian Health Interview Survey conducted in 2006 to 2007 was a nationally representative sample of the population aged 15 to 84 years (N = 6,370). The age-standardized percentage prevalences of ever having drunk surrogates were estimated. The association of age, ethnicity, and education with the prevalence of surrogate drinking was estimated using logistic regression.
Results: Of all respondents who reported drinking at least once in their lifetime (N = 5,423), 65% had consumed alcohol during the previous 4 weeks. In this group (N = 3,525), the age-standardized prevalence rate of surrogate drinking was 1.4% (2.3% men, 0.3% women). Among men, surrogate drinking was rare under the age of 35 years (0.3%). Ethnicity and education were both related to surrogate drinking: relative to Estonian men, non-Estonians (mainly Russians) had an odds ratio (OR) for surrogate drinking (adjusted for age and education) of 2.58 (95% CI 1.41, 4.72), while relative to those with higher education those with secondary education had an OR (adjusted for age and ethnicity) of 2.28 (0.78, 6.67) and those with basic education an OR of 3.91 (1.29, 11.84).
Conclusion: Surrogate alcohols are drunk in Estonia, particularly among men. This behavior shows pronounced variation in prevalence by ethnicity and education. Reducing consumption of these substances needs to be part of any strategy to reduce the burden of alcohol-related problems in Estonia today.