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The Relationship between Health-Related Quality of Life and Two Measures of Alcohol Consumption

A. Ph. van Dijk, J. Toet, J.E.E. Verdurmen

Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare two measures of alcohol consumption and their relationship with health-related quality of life and to determine whether the health status of former drinkers differs from that of abstainers. Method: The study was carried out within the framework of a general population survey (4,472 persons aged 16-69 years) in two large Dutch cities. The Short Form-36 Health Survey (SF-36) was used as a measure of health-related quality of life. Measures of alcohol consumption compared were the Quantity- Frequency-Variability (QFV) method, which measures the usual frequency and number of units of alcohol during weekdays and the weekend, and the Weekly drinking Recall (WR), which measures alcohol consumption during the week prior to completion of the WR questionnaire. Results: A curvilinear relationship (inverse J shaped) was found between both measures of alcohol consumption and the subscales of the SF-36, except in the case of role problems-physical. For example, the 95% confidence interval of the odds ratios for former, light, heavy and excessive drinkers (using the QFV, with abstainers as reference group) versus the SF-36 subscale general health are, respectively, 0.55- 1.39, 0.43-0.74, 0.31-0.68 and 0.38-0.99. Former drinkers have an intermediate position between drinkers and abstainers on the SF-36 subscales, except in role problems-physical (poorer health than abstainers) and mental health (better health than abstainers). Conclusions: Both measures of alcohol consumption have a similar relationship with the subscales of the SF-36. The fact that former drinkers show a difference on two subscales (more role problems-physical but better mental health) indicates that this category may have a complex, or at least a different, relationship with aspects of health compared with abstainers and drinkers. (J. Stud. Alcohol 65: 241-249, 2004)