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Problems of unrecognized alcohol misuse among the elderly

June 03, 2017

Further, scientific data are consistent in demonstrating that quality of life is better and total mortality is lower among moderate drinkers than among abstainers. For example, analyses by Simons et al from a large population-based patient population in New South Wales demonstrated clearly that regular moderate alcohol consumption increases life span and quality of life for men up to 80 years of age and for women indefinitely.

In another paper, by Kirchner et al of almost 25,000 American adults over age 65 seen in primary care, those reporting between 8 and 14 drinks/week (A US drink is 14g, against 8g in the UK) did not differ significantly in their characteristics from drinkers consuming 1-7 drinks/week.. Heavier drinkers and binge drinkers did not do as well.

A particular interesting paper by White et al showed a direct dose-response relation between alcohol consumption and risk of death in women aged 16-54 and in men aged 16-34, whereas at older ages the relation is U shaped. These investigators used statistical models relating alcohol consumption to the risk of death from single causes to estimate the all-cause mortality risk for men and women of different ages. The authors state that their data suggest that women should INCREASE their intake to 3 units a day over age 75, and men rise from 3 units a day up to age 54 to 4 units a day up to age 84.

Since the absolute effects of moderate drinking on cardiovascular disease are much greater in older people than in younger adults, the current limitations to intake for the elderly may not be appropriate. Attempting to persuade elderly people who currently drink moderately to decrease their current intake may not be advisable. For healthy moderate and responsible drinkers, advice to reduce or stop all alcoholic beverage intake would not be in the best health interests of such individuals.

Source: Boston University Medical Center