Identifying and clarifying alcohol use patterns in community-dwelling older adults

Yannic Van Gils

Onderzoeksoutput: PhD Thesis

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The baby boomer generation is here and will partly define the healthcare landscape in the coming years. Older people are more likely to have physical problems and diseases. The aging body causes the organs to function less well. This slows down and complicates the processing of alcohol. A larger portion of the older population drinks alcohol and older people consume more alcohol in comparison to their previous generations. Alcohol can bring substantial negative consequences making it an important issue in this group. The aim of this research project was twofold. First, we looked at the prevalence of the different patterns of alcohol use among community‐dwelling older adults aged 65 and over. Second, we examined which factors and characteristics could be linked to the different patterns of alcohol use. In order to answer our research questions, we questioned 1.971 65‐plussers with validated questionnaires concerning their alcohol consumption, alcohol‐related problems, drinking motives, resilience and the possible presence of symptoms of psychopathology. Our results showed that 80.2% of the respondents drank alcohol in the past 12 months. In addition, it appears that 26.6% can be classified as ‘at‐risk’ drinkers (drinking >3 units/day or >7 units/week) and 15.8% as binge drinkers (drinking >4 in women and >5 in men during one occasion). Our prevalence figures are higher compared to previous literature, which states that healthcare givers need to be more alert for the alcohol use among community‐dwelling older adults. There are several factors that may be associated with these different alcohol use patters. The drinking motives play an important role in alcohol use in older people. Drinking to enhance positive emotions (especially in men) and drinking to cope with negative emotions (especially in women) are associated with hazardous alcohol consumption. Negative emotions strengthened this link. Our results show that it is mainly depressive symptoms that are associated with hazardous alcohol use. Anxiety has a more complex relationship with hazardous alcohol use. A third factor that can be associated with alcohol use among older adults is resilience. From our factor analysis, there appear to be three relevant components of resilience: self‐efficacy, adaptability, and spirituality. Our results showed that these components are influencing the relationship between negative emotions and hazardous alcohol use. In older adults with higher levels of resilience, the relationship between negative emotions and excessive alcohol consumption will disappear. All these factors are important to understand and support older adults in reducing their alcohol use. Before we can support and guide in reducing alcohol use, we need to screen. Our study showed that screening for alcohol use in older people is best done using the first three questions of the AUDIT (the AUDIT‐C). These questions probe for how much one drinks, how often drinking occurs and how much binge drinking occurs. We recommend using a cut‐off score of 4 in women and 5 in men.
Originele taal-2English
Toekennende instantie
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Dierckx, Eva, Promotor
  • van Alphen, Sebastiaan, Promotor
  • Franck, Erik, Promotor, Externe Persoon
  • Dom, Geert, Promotor, Externe Persoon
Datum van toekenning7 sep 2022
StatusPublished - 2022


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