Excess alcohol consumption and health outcomes: a 6-year follow-up of men over age 50 from the health and retirement study.
AIMS: This study examined the association of problem drinking history and alcohol consumption with the onset of several health conditions and death over a 6-year follow-up period. SETTING: We analyzed two waves of longitudinal data on men over 50 who participated in the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative sample of people aged 51-61 and their spouses living in the United States in 1992. MEASUREMENTS: Five types of health outcomes--mortality, general health, functional status, cognitive status, and mental health--were examined. Drinking categories were based on average drinks per day (0, <1, 1-2, 3-4, 5+), with 5 + defined as 'very heavy drinking'. Problem drinking history was identified as 2+ affirmative responses to the CAGE questionnaire. We controlled for smoking and other factors at baseline. FINDINGS: Over the 6-year follow-up period, very heavy drinking at baseline quadrupled the risk of developing functional impairments (OR: 4.21 95%, CI: 1.67, 10.61). A problem drinking history increased the onset of depression (OR: 1.67 95% CI: 1.02, 2.74), psychiatric problems (OR: 2.15 95% CI: 1.47, 3.13) and memory problems (OR: 1.71 95% CI: 1.14, 2.56). Heavy drinking among mature adults was not associated with increased incidence of other adverse health events (i.e. angina, cancer, congestive heart failure, diabetes, myocardial infraction, lung disease or stroke). CONCLUSION: Very heavy drinking and a problem drinking history greatly increased rates of onset of functional impairments, psychiatric problems and memory loss in late middle age for men who had not experienced these impairments at their initial interview.
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