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Epidemiology in Alcohol Research

Latest Research from NIAAA

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Updated December 23, 2007

The following Epidemiology in Alcohol Research articles were highlighted in the first quarter 2004 issues of the Alcohol Research and Health publication of the National Institue of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Classification of Alcohol Use Disorders
Clear, accurate definitions of medical conditions and disorders are important for both research and clinical practice. Treatment studies, human genetics research, and national prevalence estimates of alcoholism all rely on certain sets of criteria to define alcohol abuse and dependence. The most widely used definitions for alcohol use disorders are found in two major classification systems of disease: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association, and the International Classification of Disease (ICD) of the World Health Organization.

Methodological Issues in Measuring Alcohol Use
When conducting surveys to measure a population's alcohol consumption patterns, researchers must consider numerous methodological issues to obtain valid and meaningful information, writes Dr. Deborah A. Dawson. For example, investigators must determine the most appropriate reference period for the surveys or whether to assess overall consumption or consumption for various types of beverages.

Tracking Alcohol Consumption Over Time
Researchers regularly track a nation's alcohol consumption not only to discern current drinking patterns but also to monitor trends in drinking patterns that might influence prevention or intervention approaches and policy changes. Drs. Thomas K. Greenfield and William C. Kerr review the main approaches to measuring alcohol consumption over time.

Alcohol–Related Morbidity and Mortality
Alcohol use is a contributing factor in a wide range of negative health consequences, including injuries, disease, and disability. Research on alcohol–related morbidity and mortality examines the effects of overall alcohol consumption as well as varying drinking patterns. This epidemiological research indicates that alcohol use increases the risk for both chronic health consequences and acute consequences.

Harmful Alcohol Use
Misuse of alcohol affects not only the drinker but also his or her family, friends, community, and society as a whole. Drs. Gerhard Gmel and Jürgen Rehm examine research on some of the social harms commonly associated with drinking, including lowered worker productivity and increased rates of accidental injuries, aggressive and violent behavior, and child and spouse abuse.

Epidemiology and Consequences of Drinking and Driving
Drinking and driving remains a significant public health threat in the United States. Approximately 40 percent of traffic deaths in the United States are alcohol related, and crashes involving alcohol are more likely to result in injuries and deaths than non–alcohol–related crashes.

Alcohol Use Among Adolescents and Young Adults
Young people in the United States have high rates of alcohol use and often engage in dangerous drinking practices such as binge drinking. Dr. Michael Windle reviews epidemiological data on alcohol use among adolescents, college students, and young adults not in college, as well as the prevalence of health–compromising behaviors such as tobacco use and drinking and driving that often co–occur with alcohol use in this age group.

Alcohol Use and Related Problems Among Ethnic Minorities
How do minority groups in the United States differ from one another and from Whites in their drinking patterns and in the prevalence of alcohol–related problems? Drs. Frank H. Galvan and Raul Caetano examine the epidemiology of alcohol use and related problems among the four main U.S. minority groups: Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans.

International Comparisons of Alcohol Consumption
In recent years, researchers have attempted to compare data on drinking for various countries to further advance theoretical knowledge of the social, cultural, political, or environmental factors that influence drinking behavior.

Accidental Alcohol Poisoning Mortality in the U.S., 1996–1998
Drs. Young–Hee Yoon, Frederick S. Stinson, Hsiao–ye Yi, and Mary C. Dufour examine the prevalence and patterns of mortality resulting from accidental alcohol poisoning in the United States. The authors report that year (0.49 per 100,000 population). The article also examines how other factors, such as age, gender, level of education attained, marriage, and race/ethnicity, may place some people at greater risk for death from alcohol poisoning.

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