OBJECTIVES: To assess the relationship between alcohol intake and mortality in a cohort of women aged 70 and older and to explore the relationship between level of alcohol use and changes in physical and mental health-related quality of life.
DESIGN: National longitudinal surveys from 1996 to 2002.
SETTING: Community based.
PARTICIPANTS: A national random sample of 12,432 Australian women aged 70 to 75 at baseline.
MEASUREMENTS: Alcohol consumption was the factor of interest, and the main outcome measures were survival and health-related quality of life, with adjustment for potential confounders.
RESULTS: Women who did not consume alcohol or who drank rarely were more likely to die (nondrinkers' hazard (HR)=ratio 1.94, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.4–2.6; rare drinkers' HR=1.58, 95% CI=1.2–2.1) than women in the low-intake reference category (1–2 drinks per day, 3–6 days per week), or if they survived, they had lower health-related quality-of-life scores on the General Health and Physical Functioning subscales of the Medical Outcomes Study 36-item Short Form Survey after adjustment for smoking, comorbidity, education, body mass index, and area of residence. Nondrinkers also scored lower on the Mental Health and Social Functioning subscales.
CONCLUSION: Being a nondrinker of alcohol was associated with greater risk of death and poorer health-related quality of life. Results for other levels of intake were consistent with current Australian alcohol consumption recommendations for women and indicated that moderate alcohol intake may carry some health benefits for older women in terms of survival and quality of life.