Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Murphy: Professional healthcare advice regarding excessive alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce demand in a controlled setting. However, success in a clinical trial isn’t always indicative of an intervention’s effectiveness in everyday use. Studies testing the effect of provider advice on alcohol demand in a non-controlled environment are few, and have failed to control for non-moderate drinkers. Therefore, it is possible that the estimated effect of professional-health advice primarily reflected moderate-drinkers’ responses. The distinction between moderate and non-moderate drinkers is an important one, as society bears a large cost for those who consume above-moderate quantities, while moderate drinkers have been shown to be relatively productive and healthy. Excise taxes may not be efficient given that they impose negative externalities on moderate drinkers, while excessive drinkers have been shown to be relatively unresponsive to price increases. We found that personalized information from a healthcare professional was negatively associated with reported alcohol consumption among both “risky” and “binge” drinkers. Moreover, we found that personalized drinking advice may have an impact on those who are reluctant to state that they were given such advice.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Murphy: The ability to target risky drinkers with advice will improve their health and reduce costs without negatively affecting moderate drinkers. Those reluctant to state that they were given drinking advice may also be less likely to properly inform their healthcare provider about their alcohol intake. If so, our findings indicate that a blanket statement to patients regarding behaviors to avoid to control their hypertension may be effective.
Dr. Murphy: The cross-sectional nature of our data limited our ability to make causal inferences. Future studies that are able to longitudinally assess the effectiveness of targeted healthcare advice on excessive alcohol consumption would be valuable.
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:, Sean M. Murphy, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Department of Health Policy & Administration, & Washington State University (2015). Personalized Advice May Help Risky Drinkers Reduce Alcohol