Prevalence and Correlates of At-Risk Drinking Among Older Adults: The Project SHARE Study
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Prevalence and Correlates of At-Risk Drinking Among Older Adults: The Project SHARE Study


At-risk drinking, excessive or potentially harmful alcohol use in combination with select comorbidities or medication use, affects about 10% of elderly adults and is associated with higher mortality. Yet, our knowledge is incomplete regarding the prevalence of different categories of at-risk drinking and their associations with patient demographics. To examine the prevalence and correlates of different categories of at-risk drinking among older adults. Cross-sectional analysis of survey data. Current drinkers ages 60 and older accessing primary care clinics around Santa Barbara, California (n = 3,308). At-risk drinkers were identified using the Comorbidity Alcohol Risk Evaluation Tool (CARET). At-risk alcohol use was categorized as alcohol use in the setting of 1) high-risk comorbidities or 2) high-risk medication use, and 3) excessive alcohol use alone. Adjusted associations of participant characteristics with at-risk drinking in each of the three at-risk categories and with at-risk drinking of any kind were estimated using logistic regression. Over one-third of our sample (34.7%) was at risk. Among at-risk individuals, 61.9% had alcohol use in the context of high-risk comorbidities, 61.0% had high-risk medication use, and 64.3% had high-risk alcohol behaviors. The adjusted odds of at-risk drinking of any kind were decreased and significant for women (odds ratio, OR = 0.41; 95% confidence interval: 0.35-0.48; p-value < 0.001), adults over age 80 (OR = 0.55; CI: 0.43-0.72; p < 0.001 vs. ages 60-64), Asians (OR = 0.40; CI: 0.20-0.80; p = 0.01 vs. Caucasians) and individuals with higher education levels. Similar associations were observed in all three categories of at-risk drinking. High-risk alcohol use was common among older adults in this large sample of primary care patients, and male Caucasians, those ages 60-64, and those with lower levels of education were most likely to have high-risk alcohol use of any type. Our findings could help physicians identify older patients at increased risk for problems from alcohol consumption.

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