Alcohol consumption of Australian women: results from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health.Drug Alcohol Rev 2007; 26(5):525-35DA
INTRODUCTION AND AIMS
Alcohol misuse is responsible for extensive personal harm and high societal costs. Research related specifically to women's alcohol consumption is important due to gender differences in clinical outcomes and disease progression.
DESIGN AND METHODS
This study examines longitudinal changes in the patterns of alcohol consumption associated with harm in the long term (chronic) and short term (acute) as defined by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council. Results are presented for three age cohorts (18 - 23 years, 45 - 50 years and 70 - 75 years) using data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health 1996 - 2003. Initial response rates for the study were 41%, 54% and 36% for the Younger, Mid-aged and Older cohort, respectively.
The percentages of women that initiated usual weekly consumption in excess of 140 g of alcohol, designated as long-term risky or high risk consumption, between surveys 1 and 2 were 2.7%, 2.1% and 1.7% (Younger, Mid-aged and Older cohorts, respectively). Similarly, between surveys 1 and 2, 7.8% of younger women and 2.5% of mid-aged women initiated consumption of 50 g of alcohol on one occasion at least weekly, placing them at risk of alcohol-related harm in the short-term weekly. Examining data across the three time-points in the Younger cohort, 0.3% of women were at risk of alcohol-related harm in the long term across all three time-points, and 9.2% were at risk at one or two time-points. The percentage of younger women at risk of alcohol-related harm in the short term at least weekly was 3.4% at risk at all three time-points and 24% at risk at one or two time-points.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
This study indicates that there is a small percentage of women who maintain levels of alcohol consumption associated with increased risk of morbidity and mortality over time, but a much larger proportion of women that drink at hazardous levels sporadically during the life course. Prevention efforts may need to target transient high-risk alcohol consumers differently than consistently heavy alcohol consumers. Non-response bias and attrition may have caused the prevalence of both entrenched and episodic heavy consumption to be underestimated.