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Reported alcohol use and behavior in long-distance runners


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: August 1996 - Volume 28 - Issue 8 - p 1063-1070
Applied Sciences: Psychobiology and Social Sciences

Because alcohol may impair sports performance, we hypothesized there would be less drinking in serious recreational runners. We used mailed questionnaires to examine drinking patterns (2-wk quantity/frequency), scores on modified versions of the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (brief MAST[BMAST], short MAST [SMAST], and parental history of problem drinking in 397 men and 144 women runners participating in a 20-mile race, compared with a nonexercising control population of 138 men and 119 women. A subset of 188 pairs (104 men, 84 women) were matched for gender, age, educational level, and marital status. We used chi-square analysis, paired t-test, and ANOVA. Male gender, running, and a family history for problem drinking predicted increased total alcohol consumption. We found that male runners (vs male controls) drank more (14.2 ± 19.6 vs 5.4 ± 7.6 drinks·wk-2, P = 0.004) and felt guilty about their drinking (26.6% vs 13.8%, P < 0.01). Men and women runners reported more occasions of drinking than matched controls (2.8 ± 2.7 vs 2.0 ± 2.3·wk-2, P = 0.004). Runners with scores on the BMAST (≥6) or SMAST (≥3) suggestive of a history of problem drinking drank less than controls with a similar score. Contrary to our hypothesis, running is associated with increased alcohol consumption, except in those who report a history of problem alcohol behavior.

Departments of Pediatrics, Human Services (Exercise Physiology), and Psychiatry, and Institute for Substance Abuse Studies, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA; and Dean Medical Center, Madison, WI

Submitted for publication May 1995.

Accepted for publication January 1996.

We thank Drs. Arthur Weltman, Glenn Gaesser, Claudia Sowa, and Brenda Loyd, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, for their advice and support.

Financial support was supplied in part by the Substance Abuse Prevention Center, AA 07526, and the Dean Medical Foundation, Madison, WI.

Address for correspondence: Margaret E. Gutgesell, M.D., Box 386, Department of Pediatrics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903.

©1996The American College of Sports Medicine