Alcohol consumption after health deterioration in older adults: a mixed-methods study

Gavens, L., Goyder, E., Hock, E.S., Harris, J. and Meier, P.S. (2016) Alcohol consumption after health deterioration in older adults: a mixed-methods study. Public Health, 139, pp. 79-87. (doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2016.05.016) (PMID:27387049)

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Objective: To examine if and how older adults modify their drinking after health deterioration, and the factors that motivate changing or maintaining stable drinking behaviour. Study design: Explanatory follow-up mixed-methods research. Methods: The association between health deterioration and changes in alcohol consumption was examined using secondary data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, a biennial prospective cohort study of a random sample of adults aged 50 years and older living in England. Data were collected through a personal interview and self-completion questionnaire across three waves between 2004 and 2009. The sample size (response rate) across the three waves was 8781 (49.9%), 7168 (40.3%) and 6623 (37.3%). The Chi-squared test was used to examine associations between diagnosis with a long-term condition or a worsening of self-rated health (e.g. from good to fair or fair to poor) and changes in drinking frequency (e.g. everyday, 5–6 days per week, etc.) and volume (ethanol consumed on a drinking day) between successive waves. In-depth interviews with 19 older adults recently diagnosed with a long-term condition were used to explore the factors that influenced change or maintenance in alcohol consumption over time. A purposive sampling strategy was used to recruit a diverse sample of current and former drinkers from voluntary and community organizations in the north of England. An inductive approach was used to analyze the data, facilitating the development of an a posteriori framework for understanding drinking change. Results: There was no significant relationship between health deterioration and changes in drinking volume over time. There was however a significant association between health deterioration and changes in drinking frequency between successive waves (χ2 = 15.24, P < 0.001 and χ2 = 17.28, P < 0.001). For example, of participants reporting health deterioration between the first two waves, 47.6% had stable drinking frequency, 23.4% increased their drinking frequency and 29% reported decreased drinking frequency. In comparison, of participants reporting no health deterioration, 52.7% reported stable frequency, 20.8% increased frequency and 26.4% decreased frequency. In qualitative interviews, older adults described a wide range of factors that influence changes in drinking behaviour: knowledge gained from talking to healthcare professionals, online and in the media; tangible negative experiences that were attributed to drinking; mood and emotions (e.g. joy); the cost of alcohol; pub closures; and changes in social roles and activities. Health was just one part of a complex mix of factors that influenced drinking among older adults. Conclusion: Patterns of drinking change after health deterioration in older adults are diverse, including stable, increasing and decreasing alcohol consumption over time. Although health motivations to change drinking influence behaviour in some older adults, social and financial motivations to drink are also important in later life and thus a holistic approach is required to influence behaviour.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The authors acknowledge funding from the National Institute for Health research Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care for South Yorkshire (
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Meier, Professor Petra
Authors: Gavens, L., Goyder, E., Hock, E.S., Harris, J., and Meier, P.S.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Public Health
ISSN (Online):1476-5616
Published Online:04 July 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 The Royal Society for Public Health
First Published:First published in Public Health 139: 79-87
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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