Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Booze in the News

Here's a shocking lede:
A new study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review reveals that young people do not possess the knowledge or skills required to adhere to government guidelines for responsible alcohol consumption. 

Okay, not shocking if, like me, you happen to work work at a university whose students tend to be stagger their way to near the top of the annual "top party school" list.  The story above, based on survey work in England, found that for five of the seven knowledge questions, fewer than half of respondents gave the correct response.

The actual study is here.  A couple of things to note.  First, the authors do an excellent job with their title, following Hollander's Academic Title Rule.  That is, using titular colinicity, you put in something clever, followed by a colon, followed by what the study is about.  In this case:

My cup runneth over: Young people's lack of knowledge of low-risk drinking guidelines

See how it's done, children?

Second point, to really get at this, you have to read the full report.  Well, you don't, because I'm here to do the ugly work for you, especially in digging into how they measured (every pun intended) drinking knowledge.  It's pretty damn obscure.  Here's the main part from the study methodology:

Participants indicated what they believed to be: the volume (in mL) of pure ethanol in a ‘unit’; and government guidelines (in units) for maximum weekly intake for men and women, maximum daily intake for men and women, and binge drinking for men and women.The number of correct responses was recorded as a total knowledge score. Respondents used 5-point Likert scales anchored with the end-points ‘not at all’ and ‘extremely’ to indicate: how familiar they were with the concept of ‘units’; how useful they believed the concept of ‘units’ to be; and how useful it would be to have more information about ‘units’.

Respondents estimated the alcohol unit content of 10 drinks selected to cover different sized servings of three types of alcoholic drinks consumed by young people. Colour pictures of each drink were accompanied by brief descriptions: red wine: 250 mL large glass; red wine: 175 mL standard glass; regular strength beer: pint (568 mL); Stella Artois lager: 330 mL bottle; Stella Artois lager: 500 mL can; Carling lager: 440 mL can; Carlsberg lager: 275 mL bottle; mixed drink—for example vodka and tonic: pub measure; Smirnoff Ice mixed vodka drink: 275 mL bottle; spirit—for example whisky: 25 mL pub measure. Estimates were dichotomised as outside or within 10% of the actual alcohol unit content [9]. Participants were given a score denoting the proportion of estimates within this range.
Above sounds more complicated than it really was.  Essentially, how much booze is in these various drinks.  Get 10 percent off, you're coded as incorrect.  And a lot of answers were incorrect.

The takeaway?  When it comes to what people know, booze is one of those things they can get wrong.

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