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J Stud Alcohol. 2003 Nov;64(6):884-92.

Alcohol consumption by elderly Americans.

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Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Willco Building, Suite 514, 6000 Executive Boulevard, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.



The purpose of this study was to estimate the prevalence of alcohol consumption in Americans age 65 years and older using data from three nationally representative cross-sectional surveys: the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS-2000), the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS-2001) and the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA-2000).


Alcohol consumption levels were defined as none, moderate (< or = 1 drink a day) and heavier (> 1 drink a day). The NHIS assessed alcohol consumption in the past year, and the BRFSS and NHSDA assessed alcohol consumption in the past 30 days. Differences between the BRFSS and NHSDA were tested using multinomial logistic regression. Age trends in alcohol consumption (between age 65 and 84 years) were tested using logistic regression. All analyses were weighted to produce national estimates.


In men, the prevalence of moderate drinking was 37.6% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 35.2-40.0) in the NHIS, 38.7% (CI: 37.3-40.1) in the BRFSS and 27.2% (CI: 23.6-30.8) in the NHSDA. The prevalence of heavier drinking among men was 10.1% (CI: 8.7-11.5), 10.1% (CI: 9.3-10.9) and 9.2% (CI: 7.2-11.3), respectively. In women, the prevalence of moderate drinking was 32.3% (CI: 30.4-34.2) in the NHIS, 27.7% (CI: 26.7-28.6) in the BRFSS and 21.5% (CI: 18.9-24.2) in the NHSDA. The prevalence of heavier drinking among women was 2.2% (CI: 1.6-2.7), 2.6% (CI: 2.3-2.9) and 2.4% (CI: 1.4-3.3), respectively. In increasingly older groups of men, moderate drinking remained stable (all surveys, p for age trend [p trend] = NS), while heavier drinking significantly decreased in two of three surveys (NHIS and BRFSS, p trend < .05; NHSDA, p = NS). Conversely, in increasingly older groups of women, moderate drinking significantly decreased (all surveys, p trend = .001), while heavier drinking remained stable (all surveys, p trend = NS).


In the years 2000 to 2001 approximately one third of the U.S. elderly population, about 11 million persons, consumed alcohol. The risks and benefits of drinking by elderly Americans will become an increasingly important public health issue as this segment of the population expands over the coming decades.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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