A comparison of alcohol measures as predictors of psychological distress in the New Zealand population

James Addison Foulds, J Elisabeth Wells, Cameron James Lacey, Simon J Adamson, J Douglas Sellman, Roger Tony Mulder


Foulds, J., Wells, J. E., Lacey, C., Adamson, S., Sellman, J.  D. & Mulder, R. (2013). A comparison of alcohol measures as predictors of psychological distress in the New Zealand population. International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research, 2(1), 59-67.   doi: 10.7895/ijadr.v2i1.73  (http://dx.doi.org/10.7895/ijadr.v2i1.73)  

Aims: To compare alcohol consumption and alcohol problems measures as predictors of current psychological distress.

Design: A household survey. Logistic regression models investigated the association between alcohol measures and high psychological distress.

Setting: New Zealand population sample.

Participants: 12488 adults aged 15 and over.

Measures: Alcohol use was measured by the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). The AUDIT was separated into two component factors, the first 3 items (AUDIT-C) denoting consumption and the remaining 7 items denoting problems. Psychological distress was measured using the K10, with high psychological distress defined as a score of 12 or more.

Findings: A J-shaped association was found between AUDIT score and high psychological distress. High distress was present in 6.5% of the population, 10.1% of abstainers and 35.1% of those with AUDIT scores 20 and over. Excluding abstainers, scores on the AUDIT-C were only associated with an excess of high distress at very high consumption levels indicated by a score of 10 or more. On the problems factor, the percentage with high distress was 4.5% in drinkers scoring 0, 6.1% for scores 1-3, 9.4% for scores 4-7 and 24.1% for scores of 8 or more. Results from logistic regression models including both consumption and problems factors as predictors showed that problems were stronger predictors of psychological distress than was consumption.

Conclusions: The association between alcohol consumption and current mental health is relatively weak, except in the presence of very heavy consumption or alcohol problems.


alcohol problems; psychological distress; comorbidity; alcohol consumption; alcohol use disorders identification test

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7895/ijadr.v2i1.73


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