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Social networks and alcohol use among older adults: a comparison with middle-aged adults

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This study compared the association between social networks and alcohol consumption among middle-aged (MA) and older adults (OA) to better understand the nature of the relationship between those two factors among OA and MA.


We examined Wave 2 of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Current drinkers aged over 50 were subdivided into two age groups: MA (50-64, n = 5214) and OA (65 and older, n = 3070). Each age group was stratified into drinking levels (low-risk vs. at-risk) based on alcohol consumption. The size and diversity of social networks were measured. Logistic regression models were used to examine age differences in the association between the social networks (size and diversity) and the probability of at-risk drinking among two age groups.


A significant association between the social networks diversity and lower odds of at-risk drinking was found among MA and OA. However, the relationship between the diversity of social networks and the likelihood of at-risk drinking was weaker for OA than for MA. The association between social networks size and at-risk drinking was not significant among MA and OA.


The current study suggests that the association between social networks diversity and alcohol use among OA differs from the association among MA, and few social networks were associated with alcohol use among OA. In the future, research should consider an in-depth exploration of the nature of social networks and alcohol consumption by using longitudinal designs and advanced methods of exploring drinking networks.

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