versión impresa ISSN 0185-3325
DIAZ MARTINEZ, Alejandro et al. Prevalence of risky and harmful alcohol consumption and risk factors in freshmen students. Salud Ment [online]. 2008, vol.31, n.4, pp. 271-282. ISSN 0185-3325.
Background In Mexico, alcohol is the most widely used substance among young adults. Alcohol consumption in this age group contributes importantly to the most frequent causes of mortality and morbidity (e.g., accidents, violence, homicides, suicide and risky behaviors). Around the world, college or university attendance has emerged in the literature as a risk factor for drinking problems among young adults. In Mexico, data from the most recent National Survey on Addictions showed that lifetime and current drinking is experienced by more than half of the Mexicans attending college education. Despite this, in our country there is a paucity of epidemiological studies examining drinking behavior and correlates among those attending college. Findings in non-representative samples of students attending public and private universities in Mexico City suggest that, during the last two decades, there has been an increase in the frequency of lifetime and current drinking in this population. Additionally, these studies have shown that, in comparison to young adults of the same age in the general population, university students may experience a greater prevalence of lifetime and current alcohol drinking. Regarding the frequency of unhealthy drinking among Mexican college students, to our knowledge there are no prevalence estimates of hazardous or harmful drinking published. However, observations in non-random samples of university students in Mexico City suggested that at least one in three men and one in five women incurred in unhealthy drinking (e.g., ≥ 5 drinks per occasion or drinking to intoxication) at least once during the last month. Hazardous and harmful drinking is respectively defined by a pattern of alcohol consumption conferring a greater risk for health problems or that is frankly conducive to medical or psychological complications (e.g., accidents, victimization, violence, alcohol dependence, liver cirrhosis and/or other medical complications). The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), developed by the World Health Organization, is currently the only instrument specifically designed to identify hazardous and harmful drinking. Although the AUDIT was initially validated among older adult patients in primary care settings, this instrument has consistently shown to be valid and reliable in detecting alcohol problems in different populations such as the college students in many countries around the world. Given the public health implications of estimating the frequency of hazardous and harmful drinking among college students in Mexico, and given the importance of elucidating the variables influencing this problem, we decided to conduct the present study. To our knowledge, this is the first report published in the international literature on the prevalence of hazardous and harmful drinking among college students in a Latin American country. Objective In the analysis described here, derived from the project entitled Early Identification and Treatment of Problem Drinkers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), our aim was to examine the frequency and risk factors for hazardous and harmful drinking among Mexican university students. More specifically, our objectives were: 1. To determine the past-year prevalence of hazardous and harmful drinking among UNAM college freshmen; and 2. To examine in this population the effects of demographic and family variables on the likelihood of hazardous and harmful drinking. Subjects and methods This study was a cross-sectional survey that was conducted at the beginning of the school year during the registration period between September 1st and September 30th, 2005. In 2005, a total of 34 000 students were accepted to initiate college at the nine UNAM college campuses located in the Mexico City metropolitan area. Of these, 24 921 (73.3%) students (age=18.7±4.3 years; 55.7% women) consented in answering the survey and provided complete data. Consequently, 9 079 students (26.7%) were excluded from the analysis due to lack of consent, incomplete data or due to their absence at the time of registration. We used the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) to examine past-year prevalence of hazardous and harmful drinking. This self-report instrument includes 10 items that examine frequency and intensity of drinking (items 1-3), presence of alcohol dependence symptoms (items 4-6) and negative consequences of drinking (items 7-10), yielding a maximum possible score of 40 points. Among adult patients in primary care settings, it has been accepted that an AUDIT score of 0-7 points reflects safe levels of alcohol consumption, whereas a score of 8 points or greater indicates the presence of hazardous and harmful drinking. It has been described, however, that among college students, an AUDIT score of 6 points or greater reliably identifies those students experiencing this problem. In the analysis presented here, we separately examined and reported the prevalence estimates and correlates of hazardous and harmful drinking using both AUDIT cut-off scores (≥ 6 and ≥ 8). The AUDIT was administered at the same time as a wellness screening survey that the UNAM Medical Services routinely administer to all registering freshmen at the beginning of the school year. Questions in the wellness survey pertained students' medical and dental health, family medical history, immunizations, use of tobacco and other drugs. In addition, demographic and socioeconomic information was obtained from a questionnaire also routinely administered by the UNAM registrar's office. This questionnaire included 37 items inquiring about gender, age, employment and marital status, monthly family income, parental education, place and type of residency, persons with whom the student resided, and questions on previous academic performance.
Palabras llave : Alcoholism; alcohol; AUDIT; hazardous drinking; harmful drinking; college drinking; México; Latin America.