Aims: To assess the prevalence of alcohol abuse and the prevalence of alcohol-related discharge diagnosis in an elderly general hospital population.
Design: On a randomly selected day, all patients aged 65 years and over admitted to a university hospital were screened.
Setting: University Hospital of Amiens, France.
Participants: All patients aged 65 years and over were approached and requested to take part in the study. They were interviewed using the CAGE questionnaire and with a structured questionnaire regarding life-style, and asked about their usual daily alcohol consumption. The medical history of each patient was taken. In total, 612 patients fulfilled the age criteria, but 205 patients (33.6%) had to be excluded owing to predefined exclusion criteria (e.g. dementia, aphasia, terminal illness ...) and 37 patients (6%) refused to participate.
Findings: The data were derived from 370 patients. The median age was 79 years; 54% reported no alcohol consumption; 9% of patients scored positive on the CAGE questionnaire. The prevalence of patients with a CAGE questionnaire positive was significantly higher among male patients (17%) than female patients (2.5%). The prevalence of patients with alcohol-related discharge diagnosis was 7%. The frequency of higher socio-economic status or divorced status increased significantly with alcohol consumption.
Conclusions: There may be a substantial prevalence of alcohol problems in elderly hospital patients. Research is needed to examine how generalized this problem is.