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Czech Doctors Overlook Their Patients’ Alcohol Habits, Says Survey

Only half of patients in the Czech Republic have been asked by their doctors about their drinking habits in the past two years, and only a tenth have been recommended to limit their drinking, according to a survey by the Czech State Institute of Health (SZU).

According to expert Albert Ksinan of the National Institute for Research on Socioeconomic Impacts of Diseases and Systemic Risks (SYRI) and Masaryk University, the findings are startling and physicians should ask these questions more often.

The Czech Republic is among the world’s leading countries in alcohol consumption, with 6.9 litres per capita recorded last year. More than 8% of Czechs admit to risky drinking, rising to one in ten among men. Experts estimate that one million people in the Czech Republic have an alcohol problem.

“Physicians more often advised elderly people and those with lower education to limit their drinking,” said the authors of the NAUTA 2023 study. “Only 1.7% of the alcohol consumers surveyed reflected the need to limit drinking, which indicates that the vast majority of respondents are either unaware of the health risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption or ignore their doctor’s recommendations.” 

Men consume more alcohol than women. “These differences are also found in other substances, such as tobacco and drugs,” Ksinan said.

According to SZU head Barbora Mackova, 6% of deaths each year are alcohol-related.

Experts define several categories of drinkers. Moderate drinking is defined as having less than two alcoholic drinks a day for men and one drink for women, risky drinking is up to three drinks for men and two for women, and drinking more alcohol is considered harmful.

According to SZU data, risky drinking was reported by 6.5% of men and 10% of women, and harmful drinking by 8.7% of men and 4% of women. Increased alcohol consumption was most common among people aged 45 to 64. “There are more than 16% of respondents in this age group who show signs of risky or harmful drinking,” Ksinan said.

In the case of respondents who showed signs of harmful drinking, two-thirds said their physicians asked about their drinking, and 29% said their physicians recommended restrictions.

According to the SYRI survey, some children experience alcohol at less than two years of age, 18% have some form of experience as three-year-olds, and 23% at five.

About 3% of Czechs are lifelong teetotallers, with about a quarter of them citing lifestyle and one-sixth citing health as their reasons for not drinking alcohol. As many as 2.6% of respondents in the SZU survey said they were abstaining from alcohol last year.

The rate of reported abstinence in the population rose in the COVID-19 years before declining, but is still higher than in the pre-COVID years. The most likely to be non-drinkers are people over 65 and those in the 15 to 24 years category.

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