Estimating hazardous and binge drinking prevalence in older New Zealanders using AUDIT-C and AUDIT-3 thresholds specific to older adults

Background: This study aimed to provide the hazardous and binge drinking prevalence, odds, and risk attributable to specific demographic correlates in community dwelling older adults using both the standard and new older-specific AUDIT-C thresholds.

Methods: Hazardous drinking was assessed using the AUDIT-C in a cross-sectional postal survey of 6662 New Zealanders aged 55-70 years old (m=60.94, SD=4.70) randomly selected from the New Zealand Electoral Roll. Prevalence data is presented for whole sample and stratified by key demographic correlates using standard and older-specific threshold scores on the AUDIT-C. Hazardous drinking prevalence using the standard AUDIT-C threshold was 56.01%, as compared to 42.28% and 50.20% under two older-specific thresholds.

Results: Being younger, male, and wealthy were consistent drinking predictors across thresholds but the older-specific thresholds substantially altered the prevalence and risk for females, Asians, and poorer people. Past-month binge prevalence of 18.18% was considerably lower than the past-year prevalence of 33.51%, but change from past-month to past-year binge threshold had no significant effect on the demographic composition of binge drinkers. The standard AUDIT-C threshold over-estimates hazardous drinking prevalence in older adults by up to 33%, but even the most conservative rates in this study are cause for concern regarding the level of drinking by older people in New Zealand.

Conclusion: Older hazardous drinkers are predominately younger, wealthier, white, partnered males, whichever threshold is used, but binge drinkers are more likely to be rural, Maori, and lack tertiary education. Further efforts are needed to determine factors underpinning hazardous drinking, especially in older Maori.




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