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Prev Med. 1997 Sep-Oct;26(5 Pt 1):651-7.

Prevalence and correlates of alcohol use among older adults.

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Department of Public Health, Cornell University Medical College, New York, New York 10021, USA.



The 1990 Health Promotion and Disease Prevention supplement to The National Health Interview Survey was used to develop point-prevalence data about drinking for four age groups, 55-64, 65-74, 75-84, and over 84, and to assess the impact of sociodemographics, health status, and health belief variables on light, moderate, and heavy alcohol consumption. The number of observations in the unweighted sample was 12,819, and the weighted sample contained 51,046,521 observations.


The chi 2 and Cohran-Mantel-Haenszel tests were used to investigate prevalence patterns, and odds ratios were generated from logistic regressions.


Eighty percent of the sample had had at least 12 drinks during their lifetime, and 46% reported drinking during the survey year. The modal category for the number of days a respondent drank during the survey was 1-4 days, and the modal amount consumed on days that a person drank was 1-3 drinks. Age, gender, race, education, city size, labor force participation, geographic region, health status, having diabetes, and health beliefs about the adverse effects of excessive drinking and being overweight were associated with alcohol consumption, although their effects were different by drinking level.


Analyses of health behaviors among older adults must recognize the diversity within this age group. Studies of drinking should differentiate between the amount consumed. Health beliefs need to be included in subsequent studies of health behaviors among older adults.

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