Drinking Habits Among Older Persons

Findings from the NHANES I Epidemiologic Followup Study (1982-84)

Published in: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, v. 47, no. 4, Apr. 1999, p. 412-416

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1998

by Alison A. Moore, Ron D. Hays, Gail A. Greendale, Mark Damesyn, David Reuben

OBJECTIVES: To describe alcohol use and its sociodemographic correlates among persons aged 65 years and older in a US probability sample. DESIGN: Cross-sectional analysis of a national probability sample-based cohort study. SETTING: Multiple sites throughout the United States. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 3448 persons aged 65 and older who participated in the first wave of the NHANES I Epidemiologic Followup Study (1982-84). MEASUREMENTS: The authors describe the alcohol use behaviors and demographic characteristics of 3448 persons aged 65 and older. Least squares regression models were used to assess associations between older persons' sociodemographic characteristics and alcohol use. RESULTS: Sixty percent of the sample reported having 12 or more drinks of alcohol in at least 1 year of their lives. Seventy-nine percent of these older drinkers were currently drinking. Twenty-five percent of all drinkers drank daily (31% men, 19% women). Using gender-specific definitions (men >2 drinks/day; women >1 drink/day), 16% of men drinking alcohol and 15% of women drinking alcohol were heavy drinkers. Younger age, male gender, and higher income were associated with greater alcohol use. CONCLUSIONS: Most older persons who ever drank alcohol in their lifetimes were currently drinking. In addition, a substantial number of older persons were drinking currently at levels that may place them at risk of adverse health consequences.

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