Impact of personal alcohol consumption on aspects of medical student alcohol-related competencies

Julia Sinclair, Emma Vaccari, Abhinav Tiwari, Franklin Saville, Benjamin Ainsworth, Kathryn Woods-Townsend

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Aim: As part of the prevention and management of alcohol-related harms, health professionals need to be competent to assess the level of alcohol use in patients. In this study, we explored how medical students' own alcohol consumption impacts on their familiarity with alcohol brands, strengths and alcohol-related harms. Methods: As part of a wider study investigating the concept of 'alcohol health literacy', this study combined an anonymous online survey, linked to an electronic alcohol 'brand' recognition game. Participants were medical students in their first clinical year. The survey recorded demographics, self-reported alcohol consumption (using the AUDIT-C), a visual test of relative alcohol concentrations of wine, beer and spirits, and a free-text response asking them to list alcohol-related harms. Participants then completed the brand recognition game recording accuracy and reaction time for identifying alcohol drink brands. Results: One hundred and fifty students participated. There was a significant effect of ethnicity on drinking status, with 48% of non-white participants scoring zero on the AUDIT-C. Students who reported any alcohol consumption were more likely to correctly assess relative alcohol concentrations and were faster and more accurate at recognizing alcohol brands, which was dose dependent. Overall, only 45% correctly recognized relative alcohol strengths of drinks presented. Conclusions: Among third-year medical students, ability to correctly identify relative strengths of alcoholic drinks is low. As might be expected, students who drink alcohol tend to identify brands and strengths more accurately. This has implications for how best to tailor the delivery of teaching and training about alcohol to ensure similar levels of clinical confidence in dealing with future patients regardless of personal experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-330
Number of pages6
JournalAlcohol and Alcoholism
Issue number3
Early online date26 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2019


  • alcohol units
  • alcoholic beverages
  • knowledge
  • medical students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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