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Keywords:

  • Older Alcoholic Patients;
  • Mortality;
  • Remission;
  • Inpatient Care;
  • Outpatient Mental Health Care

This study describes mortality rates and predictors of mortality among late-middle-aged and older (55+) substance abuse inpatients (n= 21, 139) in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers in the 4 years after an index episode of care. A total of 24% of the patients died; this mortality rate was 2.64 times higher than expected. Predictors of earlier mortality included older age and nonmarried status, alcohol psychosis and organic brain disorder diagnoses, and several medical diagnoses, including neoplasms, liver cirrhosis, respiratory, endocrine and metabolic, and blood system disorders. Three proxy indicators of illness severity also predicted mortality: more prior inpatient and outpatient medical care and an index episode in an extended care unit. In contrast, more prior outpatient mental health care and remitted status predicted lower mortality. These diagnostic and treatment indicators can be used to identify patients at heightened risk for premature mortality. Moreover, they show that intensive mental health aftercare and remission of substance abuse may delay mortality, even among older patients who have longstanding substance abuse problems.