December 1994

Longitudinal Evaluation of a Screening Measure for Problem Drinking Among Female College Freshmen

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Adolescent Medicine, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1994;148(12):1331-1337. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1994.02170120093018

Objective:  A previous study suggested that combining the CAGE (cutting down of drinking, feeling annoyed by criticisms of drinking, feeling guilty about something that happened because of drinking, having an eye-opener) questionnaire with the Perceived-Benefit-of-Drinking Scale, an adolescent's use of tobacco, the age at which an adolescent first started drinking, and an adolescent's best friend's drinking pattern is a useful composite screening measure for problem drinking among adolescents. The present study was undertaken to evaluate prospectively this composite screening measure as a predictor of subsequent problem drinking among college women during their freshman year.

Design:  Cross-sectional.

Setting:  Private university student health service.

Participants:  A random sample of 248 college freshman women entered a longitudinal study of alcohol use at the beginning of their freshman year. One hundred twenty (48%) completed follow-up measures of alcohol use at the end of the year. Respondents were 90% white, with a mean age of 17.9 years (SD=0.5 years).

Interventions:  None.

Main Outcome Measures:  An index of the quantity and frequency of alcohol use and a composite measure of specific alcohol-related problems.

Results:  The CAGE questionnaire score, the Perceived-Benefit-of-Drinking Scale score, the student's tobacco use, the student's best friend's drinking pattern, and the age at which the student first started drinking as reported at the beginning of the year together explained 38% of the variance in subsequent drinking habits and 26% of the variance in alcohol-related problems reported during the freshman year. Use of the composite screening measure significantly increased sensitivity and specificity beyond that obtained with the CAGE questionnaire or the Perceived-Benefit-of-Drinking Scale alone for problem drinking.

Conclusions:  The CAGE questions, the Perceived-Benefit-of-Drinking Scale, the student's tobacco use, the student's best friend's drinking pattern, and the age at which the student first started drinking may together constitute a clinically useful screening measure for subsequent problem drinking among female college freshmen.(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1994;148:1331-1337)