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J Am Geriatr Soc. 1996 Sep;44(9):1082-5.

Alcohol use in retirement communities.

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Medical College of Wisconsin, Zablocki, Veterans Administration Medical Center, Milwaukee, USA.



Anecdotal reports and two previous studies suggest that retirement communities have a particularly high prevalence of heavy drinking. The objective of this study was to verify or refute this finding and to identify characteristics associated with heavy drinking in retirement communities.


This cross-sectional study used a mailed survey to gather information from three retirement communities in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The questionnaire included alcohol use questions adapted from the Khavari questionnaire and the CAGE questionnaire to screen for alcohol abuse.


Three hundred seventeen of 454 independent residents of the retirement communities completed and returned surveys for a response rate of 70%. Mean age of respondents was 83 +/- 6 years, 100% were white, 77% were female. Forty-seven percent used some alcohol, 15% had one to six drinks per week, 8% had seven or more drinks per week. Only two people screened positive on the CAGE questionnaire for abusive drinking. The majority of drinkers had decreased alcohol use since moving to the community. Male sex, socialization, lack of religious affiliation, and smoking were factors whose percentages increased significantly with increasing alcohol use. Although drinkers were more likely to smoke cigarettes, no indicators suggested that they were less healthy than abstainers.


Despite the advanced age of this population, regular alcohol use was prevalent. In contrast to previous reports from retirement communities, heavy and abusive drinking were uncommon by our measures, perhaps because of the older age and female predominance of the sample. Drinking appears to be associated with more social contacts and, possibly, better health status.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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