Aims Most older adults report having recently experienced pain, and many older adults have late-life drinking problems. However, to our knowledge, the intersection of pain and alcohol misuse by older adults has not been studied. This research focuses on the implications of pain for older individuals who have problems with alcohol.
Design Longitudinal survey.
Setting, participants and measurement Older community-residing adults (n = 401) were classified as problem and non-problem drinkers. At baseline and 3 years later they were asked to provide information about their pain, use of alcohol to manage pain, drinking behavior, chronic health problems and recent serious injury.
Findings At baseline, older problem drinkers reported more severe pain, more disruption of daily activities due to pain and more frequent use of alcohol to manage pain than did older non-problem drinkers. More pain was associated with more use of alcohol to manage pain; this relationship was stronger among older adults with drinking problems than among those without drinking problems. Among older men, more baseline drinking problems interacted with use of alcohol to manage pain to predict more health problems and serious injury 3 years later. Among older women, more baseline drinking problems interacted with use of alcohol to manage pain to predict more drinking problems 3 years later.
Conclusions The results highlight the importance of monitoring the drinking behavior of older patients who present with pain complaints, especially patients who have pre-existing problems with alcohol.