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Publication Detail
Is regular drinking in later life an indicator of good health? Evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing
Background Older people who drink have been shown to have better health than those who do not. This might suggest that moderate drinking is beneficial for health, or, as considered here, that older people modify their drinking as their health deteriorates. The relationship between how often older adults drink and their health is considered for two heath states: Self-rated health (SRH) and depressive symptoms. Methods Data were analysed from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), a prospective cohort study of older adults, using multilevel ordered logit analysis. The analysis involved 4741 participants present at wave 0, (1998/1999 and 2001), wave 4 (2008/2009) and wave 5 (2010/2011). The outcome measure was frequency of drinking in last year recorded at all three time points. Results Older adults with fair/poor SRH at the onset of the study drank less frequently compared with adults with good SRH (p < 0.05). Drinking frequency declined over time for all health statuses, though respondents with both continual fair/poor SRH and declining SRH experienced a sharper reduction in the frequency of their drinking over time compared with older adults who remained in good SRH or whose health improved. The findings were similar for depression, though the association between depressive symptoms and drinking frequency at the baseline was not significant after adjusting for confounding variables. Conclusions The frequency of older adults' drinking responds to changes in health status and drinking frequency in later life may be an indicator, rather than a cause, of health status.
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