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What is the prevalence of current alcohol dependence and how is it measured for Indigenous people in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States of America? A systematic review

  • Weatherall, Teagan J.1
  • Conigrave, Katherine M.1, 2
  • Conigrave, James H.1
  • Lee, K. S. Kylie1, 3
  • 1 The University of Sydney, King George V Building, 83-117 Missenden Road, Camperdown, NSW, 2050, Australia , Camperdown (Australia)
  • 2 Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Drug Health Services, Camperdown, NSW, Australia , Camperdown (Australia)
  • 3 La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC, Australia , Bundoora (Australia)
Published Article
Addiction Science & Clinical Practice
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Sep 17, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s13722-020-00205-7
Springer Nature


BackgroundAlcohol affects Indigenous communities globally that have been colonised. These effects are physical, psychological, financial and cultural. This systematic review aims to describe the prevalence of current (12-month) alcohol dependence in Indigenous Peoples in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States of America, to identify how it is measured, and if tools have been validated in Indigenous communities. Such information can help inform estimates of likely treatment need.MethodsA systematic search of the literature was completed in six electronic databases for reports on current alcohol dependence (moderate to severe alcohol use disorder) published between 1 January 1989–9 July 2020. The following data were extracted: (1) the Indigenous population studied; country, (2) prevalence of dependence, (3) tools used to screen, assess or diagnose current dependence, (4) tools that have been validated in Indigenous populations to screen, assess or diagnose dependence, and (5) quality of the study, assessed using the Appraisal Tool for Cross-Sectional Studies.ResultsA total of 11 studies met eligibility criteria. Eight were cross-sectional surveys, one cohort study, and two were validation studies. Nine studies reported on the prevalence of current (12-month) alcohol dependence, and the range varied widely (3.8–33.3% [all participants], 3–32.8% [males only], 1.3–7.6% [females only]). Eight different tools were used and none were Indigenous-specific. Two tools have been validated in Indigenous (Native American) populations.ConclusionFew studies report on prevalence of current alcohol dependence in community or household samples of Indigenous populations in these four countries. Prevalence varies according to sampling method and site (for example, specific community versus national). Prior work has generally not used tools validated in Indigenous contexts. Collaborations with local Indigenous people may help in the development of culturally appropriate ways of measuring alcohol dependence, incorporating local customs and values. Tools used need to be validated in Indigenous communities, or Indigenous-specific tools developed, validated and used. Prevalence findings can inform health promotion and treatment needs, including funding for primary health care and specialist treatment services.

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