Three-year trajectories of alcohol use among at-risk and among low-risk drinkers in a general population sample of adults: A latent class growth analysis of a brief intervention trial

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Background: Few studies have assessed trajectories of alcohol use in the general population, and even fewer studies have assessed the impact of brief intervention on the trajectories. Especially for low-risk drinkers, it is unclear what trajectories occur, whether they benefit from intervention, and if so, when and how long. The aims were first, to identify alcohol use trajectories among at-risk and among low-risk drinkers, second, to explore potential effects of brief alcohol intervention and, third, to identify predictors of trajectories. Methods: Adults aged 18-64 years were screened for alcohol use at a municipal registration office. Those with alcohol use in the past 12 months (N = 1646; participation rate: 67%) were randomized to assessment plus computer-generated individualized feedback letters or assessment only. Outcome was drinks/week assessed at months 3, 6, 12, and 36. Alcohol risk group (at-risk/low-risk) was determined using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test–Consumption. Latent class growth models were estimated to identify alcohol use trajectories among each alcohol risk group. Sex, age, school education, employment status, self-reported health, and smoking status were tested as predictors. Results: For at-risk drinkers, a light-stable class (46%), a medium-stable class (46%), and a high-decreasing class (8%) emerged. The light-stable class tended to benefit from intervention after 3 years (Incidence Rate Ratio, IRR=1.96; 95% Confidence Interval, CI: 1.14–3.37). Male sex, higher age, more years of school, and current smoking decreased the probability of belonging to the light-stable class (p-values<0.05). For low-risk drinkers, a very light-slightly increasing class (72%) and a light-increasing class (28%) emerged. The very light-slightly increasing class tended to benefit from intervention after 6 months (IRR=1.60; 95% CI: 1.12–2.28). Male sex and more years of school increased the probability of belonging to the light-increasing class (p-value < 0.05). Conclusion: Most at-risk drinkers did not change, whereas the majority of low-risk drinkers increased alcohol use. There may be effects of alcohol feedback, with greater long-term benefits among persons with low drinking amounts. Our findings may help to identify refinements in the development of individualized interventions to reduce alcohol use.


Original languageEnglish
Article number1027837
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Volume10 (2022)
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2022

External IDs

PubMed 36466482
ORCID /0000-0001-9905-1999/work/145224142
ORCID /0009-0001-3684-0664/work/145224477


Sustainable Development Goals


  • adults, alcohol, brief intervention, general population, individualized feedback, latent class, prevention, trajectory

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