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J Gen Intern Med. 2007 Jan;22(1):92-7.

Alcohol consumption among older adults in primary care.

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  • 1VA South Central Mental Illness Research Education and Clinic Center, Little Rock, AR, USA.



Alcohol misuse is a growing public health concern for older adults, particularly among primary care patients.


To determine alcohol consumption patterns and the characteristics associated with at-risk drinking in a large sample of elderly primary care patients.


Cross-sectional analysis of multisite screening data from 6 VA Medical Centers, 2 hospital-based health care networks, and 3 Community Health Centers.


Patients, 43,606, aged 65 to 103 years, with scheduled primary care appointments were approached for screening; 27,714 (63.6%) consented to be screened. The final sample of persons with completed screens comprised 24,863 patients.


Quantity and frequency of alcohol use, demographics, social support measures, and measures of depression/anxiety.


Of the 24,863 older adults screened, 70.0% reported no consumption of alcohol in the past year, 21.5% were moderate drinkers (1-7 drinks/week), 4.1% were at-risk drinkers (8-14 drinks/week), and 4.5% were heavy (>14 drinks/week) or binge drinkers. Heavy drinking showed significant positive association with depressive/anxiety symptoms [Odds ratio (OR) (95% CI): 1.79 (1.30, 2.45)] and less social support [OR (95% CI): 2.01 (1.14, 2.56)]. Heavy drinking combined with binging was similarly positively associated with depressive/anxiety symptoms [OR (95%): 1.70 (1.33, 2.17)] and perceived poor health [OR (95% CI): 1.27 (1.03, 1.57)], while at-risk drinking was not associated with any of these variables.


The majority of participants were nondrinkers; among alcohol users, at-risk drinkers did not differ significantly from moderate drinkers in their characteristics or for the 3 health parameters evaluated. In contrast, heavy drinking was associated with depression and anxiety and less social support, and heavy drinking combined with binge drinking was associated with depressive/anxiety symptoms and perceived poor health.

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