Publication Abstract

Authors: Breslow RA, Smothers B

Title: Drinking patterns of older Americans: National Health Interview Surveys, 1997-2001.

Journal: J Stud Alcohol 65(2):232-40

Date: 2004 Mar

Abstract: OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to estimate the quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption among current drinking Americans age 60 years and older, by gender and age. METHOD: Five years (1997-2001) of cross-sectional National Health Interview Survey data were pooled. Quantity (number of drinks consumed, on average, on drinking days), frequency (number of drinking days per year) and a composite quantity-frequency measure (average number of drinks per day) were defined. Age trends (between age 60 and 84 years) were tested using logistic regression. Analyses were weighted to produce national estimates. RESULTS: Among 40,556 adults age 60 years and older, 52.8% (n = 8,136) of men and 37.2% (n = 8,710) of women were current drinkers. Over increasingly older age groups of current drinking men and women (1) proportions consuming higher quantities of alcohol (two drinks or more) decreased (p trend < .001), whereas proportions consuming lower quantities (one drink) increased (p trend < .001); and (2) proportions drinking least frequently (< 12 days per year) and most frequently (260-365 days per year) increased (p trend < .05), whereas proportions drinking at intermediate frequencies remained stable or decreased. Differences in patterns for quantity alone and frequency alone were obscured by the composite quantity-frequency measure. CONCLUSIONS: In a nationally representative survey, quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption showed strikingly different patterns of cross-sectional age-related change. In epidemiologic studies, quantity and frequency have been differentially associated with medical conditions prevalent in older populations. Investigators studying alcohol consumption in older people should consider reporting results separately by quantity and frequency.