Multiple Health Conditions And Depression Can Lead To Problem Drinking Among Seniors
A recent study from the University of Georgia is the first to examine the relationship between multiple chronic health problems, depression, and alcohol use/abuse in older adults.
In fact, researchers discovered that seniors who suffer from multiple chronic illness in conjunction with depression are almost five times as likely to become problem drinkers as those with similar conditions but no depression.
Researchers posit that this information could potentially help healthcare providers determine which seniors are more likely to engage in alcohol misuse – thus, leading to improved methods of prevention for these adults.
About The Study
The study used data pulled from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, a national survey of older adults funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Researchers examined more than 1,600 persons aged 57-85 who also reported themselves as active alcohol users.
They discovered that among problem drinkers (persons who reported negative consequences due to alcohol use) about 66% reported having multiple chronic health problems. Around 28% reported having symptoms of depression. It was found that those who had multiple health issues plus depression were also those who had the greatest likelihood of problem drinking.
Dr. Orion Mowbray, lead author:
“These findings suggest that effective training in screening and referral for mental health and alcohol use issues for health care providers of older adults may better serve the approximate four million older adults who currently experience problem drinking in the U.S.”
According to Mowbray, past efforts to prevent and manage diseases in seniors have focused on just one disease, and few healthcare providers consider how multiple diseased in conjunction with depression can lead to problem drinking. However, screening and counseling for behavioral problems has been show to help.
“There is sufficient evidence that even brief interventions delivered in medical-related settings can have a positive influence on reducing problem drinking among most older adults.”
“These interventions can include screening for signs of depression in individuals with long-term health problems, engaging the individual in a conversation about the risks of problem drinking, and providing a referral for brief alcohol-related treatment.”
The study is published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology
References: University of Georgia