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Doctors' own alcohol consumption colors advice to patients
Date:10/31/2011

Doctors who drink more themselves are more liberal in their advice to patients on alcohol consumption. They set higher thresholds for what is harmful, and while men who are heavy drinkers get to continue drinking, women are often advised to stop altogether, reveals a thesis from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg's Sahlgrenska Academy have for the first time looked into how family doctors' own drinking habits affect their advice to patients. The study, which took the form of a questionnaire for doctors in the county of Skaraborg, revealed that those who drink larger amounts set significantly higher limits for harmful levels of consumption than those who are teetotalars or drink little.

Gender plays a role

Gender also plays a role in the advice doctors give. Where men and women present with the same health problem and consume comparable amounts of alcohol, male heavy drinkers are often advised to cut down on their drinking, while female heavy drinkers are urged to stop drinking altogether.

Men less likely to be referred for treatment

Heavy drinkers are also much less likely to be referred for treatment if they are men than if they are women especially if the doctor is a man. "Doctors who drink more have a more liberal view of alcohol, but their attitude is also coloured by high consumption among men being the social norm," says Magnus Geirsson, doctoral student at the Unit of Social Medicine at the Sahlgrenska Academy and himself a family doctor in Skaraborg.

More training, higher limits

Doctors' alcohol training also plays a role, but perhaps not as one might expect. Nine out of ten doctors in the study set the limit for safe alcohol consumption below the Swedish National Institute of Public Health (FHI) recommendations of 14 units for men and nine for women. Interestingly, doctors who had the most alcoho
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Contact: Magnus Geirsson
magnus.geirsson@vgregion.se
46-070-396-1645
University of Gothenburg
Source:Eurekalert  

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