The association between medical students' drinking behaviour, knowledge of alcohol units and recognition of alcohol brands

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Mr Abhinav Tiwari

Introduction: The ability to estimate the alcohol content of commonly consumed drinks is important to quantify alcohol use in a medical history. This study investigated the impact of medical students’ drinking behavior on this skill, as well as their ability to identify alcohol and non-alcohol brands.

Methods: One hundred and fifty medical students in their first clinical year completed a questionnaire (including the AUDIT-C) which asked them to rank pictures of standard volumes of three kinds of drink (wine, beer, vodka) by alcohol content. They also completed an iPad brand recognition quiz. This consisted of 21 “match the word to the image” questions; 12 alcohol brands, 6 food snacks, and 3 objects as reference. Accuracy and time taken for each answer to be selected was recorded.

Results: One hundred and twenty (81%) students participating drank alcohol and 70/120 (58%) scored 5 or more on the AUDIT-C. Students who drank were significantly more likely to correctly rank the alcohol content questions (58% vs 29% respectively, p<0.05), and were significantly more accurate (87% vs 66% respectively, p<0.05) and quicker at alcohol brand recognition than non-drinkers (1.59 seconds vs 1.80 seconds respectively, p<0.05).

Conclusions: Alcohol brand recognition is high even in non-drinkers, affirming the effect of ubiquitous advertising. However, knowledge of the alcohol content of commonly consumed drinks is low in medical students, particularly so in students who do not drink alcohol. Overall, this reflects the need for better training to recognize alcohol units in drinks, with more attention being paid to those who do not drink.


Dr. Franklin Saville, FY2 doctor Dr. Emma Vaccari, Dr. Julia Sinclair, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton

Conflicts of interest:

No conflict of interest

Mr Abhinav Tiwari