• alcohol use disorders;
  • primary health care;
  • alcohol use disorders identification test;
  • brief intervention

Foulds J, Wells JE, Lacey C, Adamson S, Mulder R. Harmful drinking and talking about alcohol in primary care: New Zealand population survey findings.

Objective:  Existing evidence suggests low recognition of alcohol problems in primary care. This study aimed to determine the 12-month prevalence of harmful or hazardous drinking (HHD) in a population sample and to measure the relationship between HHD and talking about alcohol in primary care consultations in that period.

Method:  A New Zealand population survey of 12 488 adults. Alcohol use in the past 12 months was assessed by the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), with HHD defined as a total score of eight or above. Talking about alcohol was self-reported.

Results:  HHD was present in 17.7% and was commoner in men and in younger age groups, with the highest prevalence 53.6% in men aged 18–24. Three per cent of those who attended their usual primary care provider in the past 12 months reported being talked to about alcohol. Talking about alcohol increased with AUDIT score, but was not commoner in young people despite their higher prevalence of HHD. Overall, 9.4% of attendees with HHD reported talking about alcohol.

Conclusion:  HHD is common but largely not detected in primary care. Improved detection would permit the delivery of effective treatments such as brief interventions.