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J Gen Intern Med. 2013 Oct;28(10):1326-32. doi: 10.1007/s11606-013-2409-1. Epub 2013 Apr 23.

Drinking patterns of older adults with chronic medical conditions.

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Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, 415 South Street, MS035, Waltham, MA, 02454-9110, USA,



Understanding alcohol consumption patterns of older adults with chronic illness is important given the aging baby boomer generation, the increase in prevalence of chronic conditions and associated medication use, and the potential consequences of excessive drinking in this population.


To estimate the prevalence of alcohol consumption patterns, including at-risk drinking, in older adults with at least one of seven common chronic conditions.


This descriptive study used the nationally representative 2005 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey linked with Medicare claims. The sample included community-dwelling, fee-for-service beneficiaries 65 years and older with one or more of seven chronic conditions (Alzheimer's disease and other senile dementia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, diabetes, heart failure, hypertension, and stroke; nā€‰=ā€‰7,422). Based on self-reported alcohol consumption, individuals were categorized as nondrinkers, within-guidelines drinkers, or at-risk drinkers (exceeds guidelines).


Overall, 30.9 % (CI 28.0-34.1 %) of older adults with at least one of seven chronic conditions reported alcohol consumption in a typical month in the past year, and 6.9 % (CI 6.0-7.8 %) reported at-risk drinking. Older adults with higher chronic disease burdens were less likely to report alcohol consumption and at-risk drinking.


Nearly one-third of older adults with selected chronic illnesses report drinking alcohol and almost 7 % drink in excess of National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) guidelines. It is important for physicians and patients to discuss alcohol consumption as a component of chronic illness management. In cases of at-risk drinking, providers have an opportunity to provide brief intervention or to offer referrals if needed.

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