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Alcohol consumption in very old age and its association with survival – moderation, once again is key!

Alcohol consumption in very old age is increasing; yet, little is known about the personal and healthrelated characteristics associated with different levels of alcohol consumption and the association between alcohol consumption and survival among the oldest old.

Nationally representative data from the Swedish Panel Study of Living Conditions of the Oldest Old (SWEOLD, ages 76-101; n=863) collected in 2010/2011 and mortality was analysed until 2014. Alcohol consumption was measured with questions about frequency and amount. Drinks per month were calculated and categorised as abstainer, light-tomoderate drinker (0.5-30 drinks/month) and heavy drinker (>30 drinks/month).

Compared to light-to-moderate drinkers, abstainers had lower levels of education and more functional health problems, while heavy drinkers were more often men, had higher levels of education, and no serious health or functional problems. In models adjusted only for age and sex, abstainers died earlier than drinkers. Among light-to-moderate drinkers, each additional drink/month was associated with longer survival, while among heavy drinkers, each additional drink/month was associated with shorter survival. However, after adjusting for personal and health-related factors, estimates were lower and no longer statistically significant.

The association between alcohol consumption and survival in very old age seems to have an inverse J-shape; abstention and heavy use is associated with shorter survival compared to light-to-moderate drinking. To a large extent, differences in survival are due to differences in baseline health and physical function, the authors find.

Source: Alcohol consumption in very old age and its association with survival: A matter of health and physical function. Agahi N, Kelfve S, Lennartsson C, Kåreholt I. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, December 31, 2015.

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