Alcohol And Seniors

 

 American Statistics on Older Adults and Drinking

 

According to the United States Census Bureau's 2000 census, there were 34,991,753 Americans aged 65 and over. There were approximately 20.6 million older women (20,582,128) and approximately 14.4 million older men (14,408, 625). Older adults represented 12.4% of the population in the United States that year.

Combining those 2000 census figures with most recent figures from the National Health Interview Survey (using revised April, 2002 data), there are approximately 7,230,000 American women aged 65+, and 7,438,000 American men who are aged 65+ who were "current drinkers". See Table 1 for the percentage of drinkers.

Older men are much more likely than older women to be current drinkers. See Table 2 and Table 3.

A note about  American adults and drinking generally: The NHIS  indicates that the percentage of drinkers is much higher among  those with

-- higher education or

-- more money

than those with less education or less income. 

People who lived below the poverty lines were much more likely to be lifetime abstainers. However, women living below the poverty line were more than twice as likely as those who are well off to have had five or more drinks in one day on at least 12 days during the past year.

 

Older Adults Developing Alcohol Problems?

It has been estimated in Canada, that between 6 and 10% of older adults who drink have alcohol related problems. If this figure is accurate and if it is equally applicable to the United States, then we would anticipate that between 433,800 and 723,000 older women plus between 446,280 and 743,800 older men in the United States (or a total of between 880,080 and 1,466,800 older men and women) have alcohol related problems.  In the United States, 8% is a commonly cited level of problem drinking among adults.

The estimates of alcohol problems among older adults in the United States will be somewhat higher or lower if you look at the numbers of older people in the  National Health Interview Survey who reported

a) having more than 5 drinks in one day in the past year (what might be considered a "risky drinker") or

b) having 5 or more drinks in a day on at least 12 days of the past year (what might be considered a "chronic risky drinker").

Using the NHI Survey figures, it is projected that approximately 656,500 older men in the United States fall into the risky drinker category (530,100 men aged 65-74, and 126, 400 men aged 75+), plus 321,400 older men in the United States would fall into "chronic risky drinker" category.

The figures for older women are lower, but still significant. Using the NHIS figures, it is projected that approximately 222,350 older women in the United States would fall into the risky drinker category (201,700 aged 65-74, and 21,650 aged 75+), and 33,400 older women would fall into "chronic risky drinker" category (24,800 for aged 65-74 + 9,300 for aged 75+*). See Table 4. 

 

Both the NHI Survey figures for older men and older women likely seriously under-represent the extent of the problem in the United States,  because those with alcohol related problems are much less likely to  a) answer the survey, and b) answer it candidly.

 

 

 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS),

Table 1

 

 

Lifetime alcohol drinking status (United States)

 

Age

 

Total %

Lifetime abstainer

Former infrequent

Former regular

 Current

45-64

100

18.8

10.7

8.0

62.4

65–74 years

100

26.0

14.2

11.2

48.0

75 years and older

100

35.5

15.8

13.1

35.7

 

Source: Adapted from Schoenborn CA, & Adams PF. Alcohol use among adults: United States,1997–98. Advance data from vital and health statistics; no.324.Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics. 2001. The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS): Revised April 18, 2002 pg. 14. www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad324.pdf

 

  Table 2

 

 

 

Older American women’s lifetime alcohol drinking status

 

Selected characteristic

 

Total %

Lifetime abstainer

Former infrequent

Former regular

 Current

45-64

100

26.4

12.0

5.6

55.8

65–74 years

100

36.2

15.4

7.3

41.0

75 years and older

100

45.4

16.8

8.2

29.5

 

Adapted from Schoenborn CA, & Adams PF. Alcohol use among adults: United States,1997–98. Advance data from vital and health statistics; no.324.Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics.2001. The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS): Revised April 18, 2002,  pg. 12.

www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad324.pdf

 

Table 3

 

 

Older American men’s lifetime alcohol drinking status

 

Age

 

Total %

Lifetime abstainer

Former infrequent

Former regular

 Current

45-64

100

10.8

9.1

10.6

69.6

65–74 years

100

14.6

12.8

16.1

56.5

75 years and older

100

19.1

14.2

20.7

45.2

Adapted from Schoenborn CA, & Adams PF. Alcohol use among adults: United States,1997–98. Advance data from vital and health statistics; no.324.Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics.2001. The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS): Revised April 18, 2002, pg. 11.

www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad324.pdf

 

Table 4

 

 

5 or more drinks in a day at least once

 

5 or more drinks in a day on at least 12 days

 

Both

Men

Women

Both

Men

Women

Age

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

45-64

15.4

24.7

6.9

7.1

12.1

2.5

65–74 years

6.1

11.3

2.0

2.8

5.5

0.6

75 years and older

2.2

4.6

0.7

1.1

2.3

*0.3

 Adapted from Schoenborn CA, & Adams PF. Alcohol use among adults: United States,1997–98. Advance data from vital and health statistics; no.324.Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics.2001. The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS): Revised April 18, 2002, pg. 16.

* NHIS urges caution in relying on this percentage, because of the small sample size.

 


Alcohol use terms in the NHI Survey

Lifetime abstainer—Has had fewer than 12 drinks in entire lifetime. (Prior to 1997, the NHIS definition of a lifetime abstainer was a person who had fewer than 12 drinks in any one year).

Former infrequent drinker—Has had 12 drinks or more in lifetime, but never as many as 12 drinks in a single year, and has had no drinks in the past year.

Former regular drinker—Has had 12 drinks or more in lifetime, 12 drinks or more in 1 year, but no drinks in the past year.

Current drinker -- Has had at least 12 drinks in lifetime and at least one drink in the past year. (Prior to 1997, the criterion for current drinker was having had at least 12 drinks in 1 year and at least one drink in the past year.)

Current drinking levels—Levels were based on self reports of the average frequency of alcohol consumption during the past year (could be reported in terms of days per week, per month, or per year), and the number of drinks the respondent drank on the day she or she drank. Neither size nor type of beverage was specified.

In calculating current drinking levels, the number of days the respondent drank was converted from the time unit initially reported (days per week, per month, or per year) to number of days per year. Then, average number of drinks per week was calculated as follows: (# of days per year × # of drinks per day 365 days)

 

Current drinkers were classified as:

Infrequent: At least 12 drinks in lifetime and 1–11 drinks in the past year.

Light: At least 12 drinks in the past year and 3 drinks or fewer per week, on average.

Moderate: Men—more than 3 drinks up to 14 drinks per week, on average; women—more than 3 drinks up to 7 drinks per week, on average.

Heavier: Men—more than 14 drinks per week, on average (more than two per day); women—more than seven drinks per week, on average (more than one per day)

Nondrinker—Person who has not had any drinks in the past year, including former drinkers and lifetime abstainers.

Five or more drinks in 1 day in the past year—Current drinkers were asked how many times in the past year they had five or more alcoholic beverages in a single day. Answers to this question were in the time units volunteered by the respondent and could have been reported in terms of days per week, per month, or per year.

 

 

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