Background: Primary alcohol abuse-prevention services delivered to adolescents are inadequate, despite the fact that alcohol abuse is a major health problem. Physicians' attitudes and beliefs regarding primary prevention of adolescent alcohol abuse and appropriate onset ages of alcohol use may be useful in understanding why delivery of prevention services is inadequate, but as yet has not been investigated. Objectives: To examine (1) physicians' attitudes and beliefs regarding alcohol abuse prevention and practice, and (2) correlates of these attitudes and beliefs, including the delivery of primary alcohol abuse-prevention services to adolescents. Methods: A national, stratified random sample of pediatricians and family practitioners was drawn from the American Medical Association's Masterfile Registry. Inclusion criteria included active medical practice and seeing at least one adolescent per week. The response rate was 63%, resulting in a final sample of 1842 physicians. Participants were queried about their practice, alcohol use, attitudes and beliefs, and delivery of alcohol-related screening and education to adolescents. Results: On average, physicians reported providing alcohol-related screening to 40.3% (standard error [SE]=0.6) and education to 52.0% (SE=0.8) of their adolescent patients. Participants had positive attitudes toward adolescents, believed that prevention was important, and approved of alcohol screening early in adolescence, but did not feel very comfortable about their adolescent alcohol-management skills. Except for ceremonial use, most physicians did not believe in underage drinking. Attitudes and beliefs were significantly related to the delivery of alcohol screening (R2=0.34, p <0.001) and education (R2=0.18, p <0.001). Participants who delivered more screening and education had more positive beliefs in the importance of prevention (β=0.14 and β=0.13, respectively; p <0.001); approved of early alcohol screening (β=0.29 and β=0.09, respectively; p <0.001); and were more comfortable with their alcohol management skills (β=0.31 and β=0.28, respectively; p <0.001). A profile of physicians with positive attitudes and beliefs is presented. Conclusions: Physician attitudes and beliefs are associated with variations in alcohol screening and education services delivered to adolescents. A better understanding of physicians' attitudes and beliefs can be useful in providing physician education and training aimed at improving primary alcohol-abuse prevention.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health