Advocacy

 

 


Critical Research, and Good Research is Critical


It is very important that we have a sound understanding of the extent of alcohol problems among seniors. Often that is not the case, because national, regional and local surveys may not always ask questions relevant to the lives of seniors.  A case in point is the National Population Health Survey.

Survey are one of the sources of information that federal, provincial and regional policy makers use to help establish their priorities. A lack of good quality research makes for less than optimally informed policy decisions.

 


What Did the National Population Health Survey  (NPH) Find?


 

The NPH Survey found that  using the criteria of the survey, only .2% (in other words, 2 out of 1000) of the seniors canvassed were alcohol dependent.  Only .1%  of seniors over the age 75 (in other words, 1 in a 1000) reported they were alcohol dependent.  

Putting aside for a moment the whole question of the reliability of the responses (how forthright will an alcohol dependent older person be talking to a stranger on the phone, or would  the person likely be included in the survey in the first place?), below are the questions used in the National Population Health Survey. They may not be bad for the general population, but may be poor for getting an accurate reading on alcohol dependence in the general senior population.

However, you be the judge.  Here are the NPH questions, with my comments given as notes written in red.

 


Source: Statistics Canada

NPHS  Alcohol Dependence (Non-proxy only)

"The next questions are about how drinking affects people in their  activities. We will be referring to the past 12 months, that is, from  ___________ to yesterday.

 

 

Q1 In the past 12 months, have you ever been drunk or hung-over while at work or school or while taking care of children?

1 YES

2 NO

NOTE: QUESTION NOT APPLICABLE TO VAST MAJORITY OF SENIORS BECAUSE MOST WILL BE RETIRED AND FEW ARE CARING FOR CHILDREN

Q2  How many times? Was it:

1. Once or twice?

2 .3 to 5 times?

3. 6 to 10 times?

4 11 to 20 times?

5. More than 20 times?

 NOTE: Q2 FOLLOWS FROM Q1, THEREFORE NOT APPLICABLE TO SENIORS

 

Q3 In the past 12 months, were you ever in a situation while drunk or hung-over which increased your chances of getting hurt? (For example, driving a boat, using guns, crossing against traffic, or during sports)

1. YES

2. NO

 NOTE:  THESE ACTIVITIES  DO NOT APPLY TO VAST MAJORITY OF SENIORS, THEREFORE NOT APPLICABLE.   SENIORS WILL TEND TO DRINK  AT HOME MORE THAN GOING OUT.

Q4  In the past 12 months, have you had any emotional or psychological problems because of alcohol use, such as feeling uninterested in things, depressed or suspicious of people?

1 YES

2 NO

NOTE: MIGHT BE MARGINALLY APPLICABLE TO SOME, IN THAT ABOUT 20% OF SENIORS WITH ALCOHOL PROBLEMS SEEN BY  OUTREACH PROGRAMS  ARE ALSO DEPRESSED.  HOWEVER, PEOPLE ARE NOT LIKELY TO MAKE A CONNECTION BETWEEN THE ALCOHOL USE THE FEELINGS. THEY WOULD LIKELY ANSWER "NO" TO THIS QUESTION.

 

Q5 In the past 12 months, have you had such a strong desire or urge to drink alcohol that you could not resist it or could not think of

anything else?

1 YES

2 NO

NOTE: MIGHT BE  APPLICABLE TO SOME EARLY ONSET DRINKERS.  NOT AS LIKELY TO APPLY TO  SENIORS WHO DEVELOP THE ALCOHOL PROBLEM IN LATER LIFE.

 

Q6 In the past 12 months, have you had a period of a month or more when you spent a great deal of time getting drunk or being hung-over?

1 YES

2 NO

 NOTE: NOT USUALLY APPLICABLE, BEING HUNG OVER ASSUMES THAT THE PERSON IS DRINKING LARGE QUANTITIES. ALSO SENIORS TEND NOT TO DRINK TO "GET DRUNK". THEY CONSIDER THEMSELVES AS DRINKING TO RELAX, SOCIALIZE, DEAL WITH PAIN, "HELP SLEEP".

 

Q7 In the past 12 months, did you ever drink much more or for a longer period of time than you intended?

1 YES

2 NO (Go t o A D-Q9)

 NOTE: THE FOCUS HERE APPEARS TO BE ON QUANTITY ("MUCH MORE"),  NOT EFFECT ON THE INDIVIDUAL. SENIORS CAN  BE DRINKING LESS THAN WHEN YOUNGER YET STILL EXPERIENCING PROBLEMS.

Q8 How many times? Was it:

1 Once or twice?

2 3 to 5 times?

3 6 to 10 times?

4 11 to 20 times?

5 More than 20 times?

  NOTE: Q8 FOLLOWS FROM Q7, THEREFORE IF ANSWER NO TO Q7, Q8 IS NOT APPLICABLE

 

Q9 In the past 12 months, did you ever find that you had to drink more alcohol than usual to get the same effect or that the same amount of alcohol had less effect on you than usual?

1 YES

2 NO

 NOTE: THE QUESTION IS LOOKING TO THE ISSUE OF ALCOHOL TOLERANCE.  A SENIOR MIGHT ACTULLY BE CUTTING DOWN HIS OR HER ALCOHOL USE, AND YET STILL FEELING SAME EFFECT BECAUSE OF PHYSICAL CHANGES OR CHANGES IN HEALTH.

 

 

As you can see, it would be very easy for many seniors who are experiencing alcohol related problems to not be identified and counted by this survey.

 

Page last updated Sunday October 31, 2004

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