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Is alcohol consumption in older adults associated with poor self-rated health? Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing

Frisher, Martin; Mendonça, Marina; Shelton, Nicola; Pikhart, Hynek; de Oliveira, Cesar; Holdsworth, Claire


Marina Mendonça

Nicola Shelton

Hynek Pikhart

Cesar de Oliveira


Increases in alcohol related mortality and morbidity have been reported among older people in England over the last decade. There is, however, evidence that drinking is protective for some health conditions. The validity of this evidence has been questioned due to residual confounding and selection bias. The aim of this study is to clarify which drinking profiles and other demographic characteristics are associated with poor self-rated health among a community-based sample of older adults in England. The study also examines whether drinking designated as being “increasing-risk” or “higher-risk” is associated with poorer self-rated health.

This study used data from Wave 0, Wave 1 and Wave 5 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing [ELSA]. Logistic regression analysis, was used to examine the association between drinking profiles (based on quantity and frequency of drinking) and self-rated health, adjusting for gender, age, wealth, social class, education, household composition, smoking and body mass index [BMI].

Twenty percent of the sample reported drinking above the recommended level at wave 0. Rates of poor self-rated health were highest among those who had stopped drinking, followed by those who never drank. The rates of poor self-rated health among non-drinkers were significantly higher than the rates of poor self-rated health for any of the groups who reported alcohol consumption. In the adjusted logistic regression models there were no drinking profiles associated with significantly higher rates of poor self-rated health relative to occasional drinkers.

Among those who drank alcohol, there was no evidence that any pattern of current alcohol consumption was associated with poor self-rated health, even after adjustment for a wide range of variables. The results associated with the stopped drinking profile indicate improvement in self-rated health can be associated with changes in drinking behaviour. Although several limitations of the study are noted, policy makers may wish to consider how these findings should be translated into drinking guidelines for older adults.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 30, 2015
Online Publication Date Jul 24, 2015
Publication Date Jul 24, 2015
Journal BMC Public Health
Publisher Springer Verlag
Keywords Alcohol, Epidemiology, Public Health, Longitudinal
Publisher URL