Alcohol consumption and health among elders

Ana I. Balsa, Jenny F. Homer, Michael F. Fleming, Michael T. French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Purpose: This article estimates the effects of alcohol consumption on self-reported overall health status, injuries, heart problems, emergency room use, and hospitalizations among persons older than the age of 65. Design and Methods: We analyzed data from the first wave of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, a nationally representative study. We used multivariate regression and instrumental variables methods to study the associations between alcohol consumption (current drinking, binge drinking, and average number of drinks consumed) and several indicators of health status and health care utilization. Results: Alcohol consumption by women was associated with better self-perceived health status, improved cardiovascular health, and lower rates of hospitalizations. We detected no significant negative or positive associations for older men. Implications: These findings suggest that light to moderate alcohol use by older women may have beneficial health effects. Experimental trials, however, are needed to more rigorously assess the potential benefits of alcohol use by elders due to the inherent biases of observational studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)622-636
Number of pages15
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol consumption
  • Health benefits
  • Health care utilization
  • Selection bias
  • Self-perceived health status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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