Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Prevalence of excessive or problem drinkers among patients attending somatic outpatient clinics: a study of alcohol related medical care.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 295 doi: (Published 22 August 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:467
  1. J Persson,
  2. P H Magnusson
  1. Department of Internal Medicine, Karlstad Central Hospital, Sweden.


    The prevalence of alcohol related morbidity was studied among 2038 patients attending somatic outpatient clinics. A further 76 patients had refused the study, giving an overall drop out rate of 3.6%. Several methods were combined so as to detect as many patients with problem drinking as possible. According to the criteria and definitions employed 17% of men (confidence interval 15% to 19%) and 4% of women (confidence interval 3% to 5%) were excessive consumers of alcohol or problem drinkers. The highest proportion of such patients--that is, 17%--was noted in the emergency rooms (27% of men, 8% of women). At other clinics the proportions varied from 11% to 17% of men and from 2% to 4% of women. The strongest relations between overconsumption of alcohol and consultation at the clinic were among patients attending the medical outpatient clinic and the emergency rooms; in 86% (confidence interval 75% to 97%) and 88% (confidence interval 81% to 95%) of problem drinkers attending these clinics, respectively, alcohol was related to the consultation. Consultations were related to alcohol in 82% of women with excessive or problem drinking and 73% of men defined in this way. There was a tendency to a higher proportion of men with excessive or problem drinking in the age group 40-49 years. These findings show that among patients classified as excessive or problem drinkers attending somatic outpatient clinics there was a close relation between alcohol consumption and utilisation of medical resources, especially in women.