Can't find something? Search Here.

Remembering the Party: How Time Affects Perception of Alcohol Intake

Posted in Alcohol Abuse

Many research studies are conducted using self-report, where participants are asked to recall previous behaviors that are being measured for associations with other behaviors or characteristics. One area of research that heavily uses self-report is the examination of alcohol-related behaviors.

It is very difficult to determine whether self-report, especially when related to substances like alcohol or drugs, is tainted with a participant wanting to preserve his or her image to the researcher doing the questioning. It also may be heavily tainted by memory problems, with behaviors escalating or declining depending on how the behavior is viewed by the participant at a later date.

A recent study looked at the impact of memory on reporting alcohol intake. Chu, Meoni, Wang, Liang, Ford and Klag examined the reliability of alcohol recall. They examined alcohol recall after 15 years and then again after 23 years to see if memory was reliable for measuring alcohol intake.

The researchers recruited participants from a group of medical students in classes 1948 to 1964. The participants were questioned about alcohol intake at an average age of 70 years old.

The results of the study show that the average reported alcohol intake at 15 years and 23 years prior were 6.3 and 7.4 drinks per week, respectively. The recall of alcohol consumption showed an overestimation by a mean of 0.47 drinks per week at 15 years. At 23 years, there was an underestimation by a mean of 0.79 drinks per week.

The differences between the recalled and the actual alcohol consumed were mostly due to differences between concurrently reported and recalled distilled spirits consumption.

There were several characteristics associated with underestimation of alcohol recall. They were an age of 71 or older in 2001, self-report of memory difficulties, and self-report of difficulties in physical functioning.

The study employed multivariate regression analyses to combine the 15- and 23-year recall, showing that subjects who reported consumption of more than 14 alcoholic drinks per week overestimated by only slightly more than one drink per week.

The results of the study provide important information for scientists researching alcohol consumption. The reliability of self-report, even after many years, is very good. The impact of general memory problems on self-report seems to be negligible when considering that those who consumed 14 drinks or more per week were less than a drink off when reporting on the behavior many years later.