Publications & Reports

Screening for risky drinkers among hospitalised inpatients using the AUDIT: A feasibility, point prevalence and data linkage study.

O'Brien H, Di Rico R, Dean E, Smoker G, Lloyd-Jones M, McKechnie M, Dietze PM, Doyle JS
Program for Behaviours and Health Risks, Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Australia.


INTRODUCTION: Risky drinking frequently remains undiagnosed or untreated, including in hospitalised inpatients. Using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), we assessed the feasibility of screening for risky drinking and whether screening results aligned with alcohol-attributable diagnoses in an inpatient population. METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional survey across a tertiary health service in Melbourne, Australia. Researchers collected demographics, AUDIT scores and acceptability from all eligible adult inpatients available on day of survey. Main outcomes were prevalence of risky drinking (AUDIT >/=8), mean AUDIT score and patient acceptability. Identification of risky drinking by the abbreviated ‘AUDIT-C’ or discharge diagnoses (extracted by data-linkage with medical records) was compared. RESULTS: Of 473 eligible inpatients, 61% (n = 289) participated, 22% (n = 103) were unavailable and 17% (n = 81) declined. Median age was 64 years (IQR = 48, 76); 54% (n = 157) were male. Mean AUDIT score was 4.4 (SD = 5.5). Risky drinking prevalence was 20% (n = 57), 2% (n = 7) had scores suggestive of dependence (AUDIT >/=20, a subset of risky drinkers). Odds of risky drinking were reduced in females (OR 0.19, 95% CI 0.09, 0.41; P < 0.001) and participants >/=70 years (OR 0.22, 95% CI 0.07, 0.71; P = 0.01). Alcohol-attributable diagnoses did not consistently align with risky drinking, with half of inpatients with wholly attributable diagnoses classified as low risk. Most inpatients considered screening acceptable (89%, n = 256). DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: Pre-admission risky drinking was evident in one-fifth of hospital inpatients, but alcohol-attributable diagnoses were unreliable proxy measures of risky drinking. Screening in-patients with the AUDIT was acceptable to inpatients and can be feasibly implemented in an Australian tertiary hospital setting.

Link to publisher’s web site


  • Journal: Drug and Alcohol Review
  • Published: 28/06/2021
  • Volume: Epub ahead of print