Alcohol use is associated with self-reported health status. However, little is known about the concurrent association between alcohol screening scores and patient perception of health. We evaluated this association in a sample of primarily older male veterans.
This secondary, cross-sectional analysis included male general medicine outpatients from 7 VA medical centers who returned mailed questionnaires. Screening scores from the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test Consumption (AUDIT-C) questionnaire were divided into 6 categories (0, 1–3, 4–5, 6–7, 8–9, and 10–12). Outcomes included scores on the 8 subscales and 2 component scores of the 36-item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36). Unadjusted and adjusted linear regression models were fit to characterize the association between AUDIT-C categories and SF-36 scores. Models were adjusted for demographic characteristics, smoking, and site—both alone and in combination with 14 self-reported comorbid conditions.
Male respondents (n = 24,531; mean age = 63.6 years) represented 69% of those surveyed with the SF-36. After adjustment, a quadratic (inverted U-shaped) relationship was demonstrated between AUDIT-C categories and all SF-36 scores such that patients with AUDIT-C scores 4–5 or 6–7 reported the highest health status, and patients with AUDIT-C scores 0, 8–9, and ≥10 reported the lowest health status.
Across all measures of health status, patients with the most severe alcohol misuse had significantly poorer health status than those who screened positive for alcohol misuse at mild or moderate levels of severity. The relatively good health status reported by patients with mild-moderate alcohol misuse might interfere with clinicians' acceptance and adoption of guidelines recommending that they counsel these patients about their drinking.