A detailed monthly national survey is needed to understand population-wide influences on alcohol use, and to inform and evaluate policies aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm.
This project developed the Alcohol Toolkit Study (ATS) in 2014 with SPHR funding and involved monthly household surveys of representative samples of the adult population in England. The survey collected detailed information across 36 consecutive months from over 60,000 people on alcohol consumption and harm, which was contextualised by data on a range of alcohol-related behaviour and socio-demographic characteristics. The ATS has several advantages over other large-scale surveys on alcohol use in the United Kingdom. These include the frequency of data collection and detailed contextual information relating to alcohol consumption.
Key findings include that less than 10% of those who drink excessively and visit their GP in England report having received advice on their alcohol consumption whereas for smokers it is 50%; January is associated with increased attempts to cut down alcohol intake but there is little evidence that these attempts translate into reduced consumption; the established paradox that lower socioeconomic status groups consume less alcohol but experience more alcohol-related problems appears to be influenced by the particular measure socioeconomic status and to be concentrated in men and younger people; just 14.8% of high-risk drinkers use aids to help them reduce their alcohol intake compared to 60.3% of smokers attempting to quit; at any one time around one fifth of high-risk drinkers in England are attempting to cut down; smoking and high-risk drinking appear less common in ‘central England’ than in the rest of the country; and that the publication of revised lower risk drinking guidelines can improve drinkers’ knowledge of these guidelines within all sociodemographic groups.
The wide variety of questions on alcohol use and key-related behaviours has resulted in several important findings which have implications for policy and identify ways in which high-risk alcohol consumption may be reduced. For example, there is a clear need to increase the uptake of aids and behavioural support, to encourage GPs to broach the subject of excessive alcohol use and to decrease social-inequalities. In the future, the long-running nature of the ATS will allow for the evaluation of population level polices on health inequalities and the impact across different social groups and types of local authorities.
Beard, E., Brown, J., West, R., Acton, C., Brennan, A., Drummond, C., Hickman, M., Holmes, J., Kaner, E., Lock, K., Walmsley, M., & Michie, S. (2015). Protocol for a national monthly survey of alcohol use in England with 6-month follow-up: ‘The Alcohol Toolkit Study’ BMC Public Health 2015, 15:230.
Brown, J., West, R., Angus, C., Beard, Brennan, A., Drummond, C., Hickman, M., Holmes, J., Kaner, E., & Michie, S. (2016). Comparison of brief interventions in primary care on smoking and excessive alcohol consumption in England: a population survey. British Journal of General Practice. 66 (642): e1-e9.
Beard, E., Brown, J., West, R., Angus, C., Brennan, A., Holmes, J., Kaner, E., Meier, P., & Michie. S. (2016). Deconstructing the alcohol harm paradox: A population based survey of adults in England. PLOS ONE.
Beard, E., Brown, J., Michie, S., Kaner, E., Petra, M., & West, R. (2016). Use of aids for smoking cessation and/or alcohol reduction: A population survey of adults in England. BMC Public Health. 16:1237.
de Vocht, F., Beard, E., Angus, C., Brennan, A., Michie, S., Campbell, R., & Hickman, M. (2016). Temporal patterns of alcohol consumption and motivation to reduce alcohol intake in England. BMC Public Health, 16: 917.
Brown, J., West, R., Beard, E., Brennan, A., Drummond, C., Gillespie, D., Hickman, M., Holmes, J., Kaner, E., & Michie, S. (2016). Are recent attempts to quit smoking associated with reduced drinking in England? A cross-sectional population survey. BMC Public Health. 16:535.
Beard, E., Brown, J., Kaner, E., West, R., & Michie, S. (2017). Predictors of and reasons for attempts to reduce alcohol intake: a population survey of adults in England. PLOS ONE.
Beard, E., Brown, J., West, R., Angus, C., Kaner, E., & Michie, S. (2017). Healthier central England or North–South divide? Analysis of national survey data on smoking and high-risk drinking. BMJ Open.
de Vocht, F., et al. (2018) Association of motivation to reduce alcohol consumption with self-reported attempts to reduce alcohol consumption and change in alcohol consumption in high-risk drinkers: a prospective population survey. Addiction.
Shahab, L., Meads, C., Brown, J., Hagger-Johnson, G., & West, R. (2017). Sexual orientation and tobacco and hazardous alcohol use – findings from a cross-sectional representative population survey. BMJ Open
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TagsAlcoholAlcohol consumptionDigital interventionsdigital technologiesdrinking guidelinesInequalitiesSmokingToolkit