Little is known about the prevalence and risk factors of alcohol problems among older people (especially those aged 75 years and more). The aims of this study were to report alcohol consumption patterns and to determine their association with socio-demographic variables and health characteristics.
3224 non-demented subjects aged 75 and over and attending general practitioners (GPs) (n = 138) in an urban area of Germany were studied by structured clinical interviews including detailed assessment of alcohol consumption patterns distinguishing between abstainers, moderate drinkers and at-risk drinkers (>20 g of alcohol for women and >30 g of alcohol for men).
A high proportion (50.1%) of the sample were abstainers, 43.4% were moderate drinkers. The prevalence of at-risk alcohol consumption was 6.5% (95% CI 5.6–7.4). Rates were significantly higher for men (12.1%; 95% CI 10.2–14.0) compared to women (3.6%; 95% CI 2.8–4.4). After full adjustment for confounding variables we found that compared to moderate drinking abstaining from alcohol was significantly associated with female gender, lower education, and mobility impairment. Compared to moderate drinking at-risk drinking was significantly higher among men, individuals with a liver disease, and current smokers.
Multivariate analysis revealed that, apart from liver disease, at-risk drinking in a non-demented population aged 75 and over was associated with relatively good physical and mental health. Nevertheless, public prevention measures should focus on at-risk drinkers to make them aware of potential risks of high alcohol consumption in old age. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.