Alcohol consumption in later life and mortality in the United States: Results from 9 waves of the Health and Retirement Study.

TitleAlcohol consumption in later life and mortality in the United States: Results from 9 waves of the Health and Retirement Study.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsKeyes, KM, Calvo, E, Ornstein, KA, Rutherford, C, Fox, MP, Staudinger, UM, Fried, LP
JournalAlcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research
ISSN Number1530-0277
KeywordsAlcohol Consumption, Mortality, NDI

BACKGROUND: Alcohol consumption in later life has increased in the past decade, and the relationship between alcohol consumption and mortality is controversial. Recent studies suggest little, if any, health benefit to alcohol. Yet most rely on single-time point consumption assessments and minimal confounder adjustments.

METHODS: We report on 16 years of follow-up from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) cohorts born 1931 to 1941 (N = 7,904, baseline mean age = 61, SD = 3.18). Respondents were queried about drinking frequency/quantity. Mortality was established via exit interviews and confirmed with the national death index. Time-varying confounders included but were not limited to household assets, smoking, body mass index, health/functioning, depression, chronic disease; time-invariant confounders included baseline age, education, sex, and race.

RESULTS: After adjustment, current abstainers had the highest risk of subsequent mortality, consistent with sick quitters, and moderate (men: HR = 0.74, 95% CI: 0.60 to 0.91; women: HR = 0.82, 95% CI: 0.63 to 1.07) drinking was associated with a lower mortality rate compared with occasional drinking, though smokers and men evidenced less of an inverse association. Quantitative bias analyses indicated that omitted confounders would need to be associated with ~4-fold increases in mortality rates for men and ~9-fold increases for women to change the results.

CONCLUSIONS: There are consistent associations between moderate/occasional drinking and lower mortality, though residual confounding remains a threat to validity. Continued efforts to conduct large-scale observational studies of alcohol consumption and mortality are needed to characterize the changing patterns of consumption in older age.

User Guide Notes

Alternate JournalAlcohol. Clin. Exp. Res.
Citation Key10133
PubMed ID31276233
PubMed Central IDPMC6677628
Grant ListK01 AA021511 / AA / NIAAA NIH HHS / United States
/ / Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center / International
1181009 / / FONDECYT / International