Little is known about the level of alcohol consumption at which physicians think that they should advise their patients to reduce drinking. This is especially true concerning the amounts consumed per one drinking occasion. The aim of the present study was to examine these issues and also characteristics of physicians possibly associated with their different opinions.
Cross-sectional self-administered questionnaire survey to all 3193 primary health care physicians in Finland. Response rate was 61.0%.
The physicians reported that on average 14.8 drinks (one drink=12 g of absolute alcohol)/week for males and 10.6 drinks/week for females to be the threshold that would cause them to advise their patients. Corresponding figures for one drinking occasion were 6.6 and 4.9 drinks/week. In linear regression analyses physicians' AUDIT scores, use of brief intervention, experience as a physician and age explained the variance of all or some reported thresholds, but all the variables explained only about 10% of the phenomena.
Compared to the official Finnish recommendations regarding the definition of heavy drinking, the physicians reported similar levels of drinking per occasion for deciding to advise their patients, but rather low levels concerning weekly drinking. This may lead to extra workload for physicians and thus hamper implementation of brief intervention. Physicians' characteristics seem to be a decidedly minor issue in implementing drinking limits in health care.