Alcohol Use and Mortality among Older Couples in the United States: Evidence of Individual and Partner Effects.

TitleAlcohol Use and Mortality among Older Couples in the United States: Evidence of Individual and Partner Effects.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsBirditt, K, Turkelson, A, Polenick, CA, Cranford, JA, Smith, JA, Ware, EB, Blow, FC
Date Published2023 Jul 24
ISSN Number1758-5341

BACKGROUND: Spouses with concordant (i.e., similar) drinking behaviors often report better quality marriages and are married longer compared to those who report discordant drinking behaviors. Less is known regarding whether concordant or discordant patterns have implications for health, as couples grow older. The present study examined whether drinking patterns among older couples are associated with mortality over time.

METHODS: The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) is a nationally representative sample of individuals and their partners (married/cohabiting) over age 50 in the United States, in which participants completed surveys every two years. Participants included 4,656 married/cohabiting different-sex couples (9,312 individuals) who completed at least three waves of the HRS from 1996 to 2016. Participants reported whether they drank alcohol at all in the last three months, and if so, the average amount they drank per week. Mortality data were from 2016.

RESULTS: Analyses revealed concordant drinking spouses (both indicated they drank in the last three months) survived longer than discordant drinking spouses (one partner drinks and other does not) and concordant non-drinking spouses. Analysis of average drinks per week showed a quadratic association with mortality such that light drinking predicted better survival rates among individuals and their partners compared to abstaining and heavy drinking. Further, similar levels of drinking in terms of the amount of drinking was associated with greater survival, particularly among wives.

CONCLUSIONS: This study moves the field forward by showing that survival varies as a function of one's own and one's partner's drinking.

Citation Key13458
PubMed ID37487060