Why doctors don’t ask about your drinking

“It is socially unacceptable to say you’re a heavy drinker, but it is actually socially acceptable to be a heavy drinker.” This interesting quote from a GP came out of a research project by Dr Michael Tam, GP at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine in Sydney. It may explain why GPs feel reluctant to discuss alcohol intake with their patients…

Dr Tam tried to find out why doctors are avoiding the topic. He found the following 3 barriers:

  • Many GPs didn’t want to be seen as moralising or didn’t want to label people with an alcohol problem
  • There was doubt about effective screening tools; what people say may not always reflect their true alcohol intake, so why bother asking
  • GPs were concerned that discussing the topic would affect the relationship with their patients

Dr Tan concluded that routine alcohol screening questionnaires by GPs may not be helpful to detect at-risk drinking.

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Source: Detection of at-risk drinking – beliefs and attitudes of Australian GPs