Measuring alcohol consumption among older adults: a comparison of available methods

Am J Addict. 2003 May-Jun;12(3):211-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1521-0391.2003.tb00649.x.


We determined levels of agreement and concordance between five alcohol measures among older veterans from a VA primary care clinic (N=303) and community-dwelling Medicare beneficiaries (N=511). The individuals recruited for the study had not been previously identified for alcohol use. Quantity-frequency questions, a binge drinking question, the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, CAGE, and questions on lifetime consumption were administered to all current drinkers. To assess agreement between the measures, we conducted pairwise comparisons (eg, QF vs. CAGE) by determining the percentage of participants who screened positive on both measures and calculated kappa values to determine concordance. Only modest levels of agreement and concordance were found between the measures. The use of any individual measure may fail to detect many older adults with important alcohol exposures. Until optimal methods for measuring alcohol exposures in elderly adults are defined, we suggest that a combination of measures be used when obtaining alcohol histories in older persons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicare / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Veterans*