Older versus younger treatment-seeking smokers: differences in smoking behavior, drug and alcohol use, and psychosocial and physical functioning.
Quitting smoking benefits older individuals, yet few recent studies have described older smokers. The goal of this paper was to test a series of hypotheses about differences between smokers aged 50 years or older (50+) and those younger than age 50 (<50) presenting to the same treatment facility during 2002-2004 for participation in two randomized clinical trials: one exclusively for smokers aged 50+, and a second open to smokers aged 18 or older. As predicted, smokers aged 50+ were more tobacco dependent, had better psychological functioning, and had poorer physical functioning than those aged <50. Contrary to predictions, we found no differences in motivation to quit cigarette smoking or in alcohol use. Women aged 50+ were less likely to report marijuana use than women aged <50, and less likely than men to receive a positive diagnosis for alcohol abuse. Despite higher scores on measures of tobacco dependence, older smokers were less likely to be diagnosed as tobacco dependent or as having tobacco withdrawal using DSM-IV criteria. Rates of DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence were high in both age groups but were higher for smokers aged <50. We found no striking differences between studies in reasons for exclusion, but in both the proportion of individuals excluded due to current antidepressant use was high. Implications for the assessment and treatment of older adults are discussed.