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Keywords:

  • alcohol;
  • instrumental activities of daily living (IADL);
  • functional status;
  • CAGE;
  • physical performance

OBJECTIVES: To describe associations between recent alcohol intake, physical performance, and functional limitations in older men.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.

SETTING: Six U.S. clinical centers.

PARTICIPANTS: Five thousand nine hundred sixty-two men aged 65 and older.

MEASUREMENTS: Self-reported functional limitations; problem drinking history (≥2 positive responses on the CAGE questionnaire); history of sustained excessive drinking (history of consumption of ≥5 drinks/day on most days); and alcohol intake categorized by drinks/week (0=abstainers, n=2,116; < 1=intermittent, n=739); 1 to <7= light, n=1,563; 7 to <14=low-moderate, n=848; 14 to <21 =high-moderate, n=459; and ≥21=heavy, n=237). Grip strength, leg power, chair stand, and walking tests were completed during a standard examination.

RESULTS: After age adjustment, men with low-moderate or high-moderate intake generally performed 3% to 5% better on physical performance tests than abstainers; heavy drinkers performed similarly to abstainers. These associations lessened yet tended to remain significant after multivariate adjustment. Men with low-moderate alcohol intake had the lowest odds of reporting a limitation in instrumental activities of daily living (multivariate-adjusted odds ratio (OR)=0.52, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.39–0.69) compared to abstainers; similar odds were seen for high-moderate and heavy use. The association between alcohol intake and self-reported physical limitation was U-shaped, with the highest odds of physical limitation in abstainers (OR=1.0, referent) and heavy users (OR=0.88, 95% CI=0.58–1.36) and the lowest odds in low-moderate users (OR=0.62, 95% CI=0.46–0.95).

CONCLUSION: Moderate alcohol intake was associated with modestly better physical performance and lower odds of reporting a functional limitation in older men.