Use of the Family CAGE in Screening for Alcohol Problems in Primary Care
Scott H. Frank, MD, MS;
Antonnette V. Graham, PhD;
Stephen J. Zyzanski, PhD;
Sybil White, MD
Arch Fam Med. 1992;1(2):209-216.
To establish the reliability and validity of the Family CAGE (an acronym indicating Cut down on drinking; Annoyed by complaints about drinking; Guilty about drinking; had an Eye-opener first thing in the morning), a four-item instrument intended to assess family alcohol-related problems.
Two distinct cross-sectional studies using a survey, and in one study, retrospective chart review.
A random sample of 172 adult patients presenting for nonurgent care to a network of family practice settings and a convenience sample of 107 patients who smoked presenting to a university family practice residency training setting.
Main Outcome Measures
The Family CAGE was compared with alcohol-related variables and scales measuring psychosocial constructs. In the first study, these scales included the Family Stress and Coping Scale; Profile of Mood States; the Family Problems Checklist; and the Duke/University of North Carolina Mini-Health Profile. Chart review included medical utilization rates and prescription of medications. In the second study, a revised version of the Family CAGE was compared with other scales such as the standard CAGE questionnaire; an "Anomy" Scale; the Catchment Epidemiologic Study-Depression Scale; a global self-assessment of alcohol-related problems; and a self-report of lifetime history of major depression and recent self-limited depression.
The Family CAGE showed strong internal consistency reliability, with Cronbach's coefficients of .84 in the first study and .89 in the second. Construct validity was supported by Family CAGE correlations with family stress, family problems, depression, anxiety, individual stress, and marital dissatisfaction. The Family CAGE was strongly correlated with global assessment of family alcohol-related problems, and was superior to this variable in predicting help-seeking behavior. The Family CAGE was also significantly correlated with a higher sick visit rate and more medications prescribed (despite no difference in functional health status). The standard CAGE was correlated with a recent history of self-limited depression, while the Family CAGE was correlated with a lifetime history of major depression. Sensitivity and specificity rates vary depending on the criterion addressed, but a cutoff score of 2 or more appears to offer the best clinical information.
The Family CAGE appears to be a reliable, valid, utilitarian measure of family alcohol problems. It offers more information than either a single-item global assessment regarding family alcohol-related problems or the standard CAGE questionnaire. The Family CAGE is strongly correlated with other important psychosocial problems, prescription of psychotropic medications, and healthcare utilization. It is brief, understandable, and equally effective in interview and self-administered formats.
From the Department of Family Medicine, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio.
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Family Alcoholism Screening: Progress, Pitfalls, and Promise
Arch Fam Med 1992;1:219-221.