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Why Do Older Unhealthy Drinkers Decide to Make Changes or Not in Their Alcohol Consumption? Data from the Healthy Living as You Age Study

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To understand characteristics of older at-risk drinkers and reasons why they decide to change or maintain their alcohol consumption.


Secondary analysis of data from a randomized controlled trial to reduce drinking in at-risk drinkers.


Three primary care sites in southern California.


Six hundred thirty-one adults aged 55 and older who were at-risk drinkers at baseline, 521 of whom who completed a 12-month assessment.


Sociodemographic and alcohol-related characteristics of 12-month assessment completers and noncompleters and among those completing the 12-month assessment by telephone or mail were compared using descriptive statistics. Reasons why respondents maintained or changed average alcohol consumption were asked of those who completed a 12-month assessment by telephone. Factors that might motivate at-risk drinkers to reduce drinking were asked about, and frequencies were calculated for these responses.


Participants were primarily male, white, highly educated, and in good health. Those who responded to the 12-month assessment by mail were more likely to be working, to be in the intervention arm, and to drink more. Most who reduced alcohol consumption and heavy drinking did so because they thought it would benefit them. Those who did not thought that drinking was not a problem for them. Both groups cited their environment and circumstances as influencing their drinking. Remaining at-risk drinkers reported that medical evidence that alcohol was harming them would motivate them to reduce drinking.


Older adults report that they reduce their drinking when they recognize that their drinking habits may be causing them harm; one's environment can hinder or help one to reduce drinking.

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