Screening for alcohol misuse in elderly primary care patients: a systematic literature review

Int Psychogeriatr. 2008 Dec;20(6):1090-103. doi: 10.1017/S1041610208007497. Epub 2008 Jun 9.


Background: Alcohol problems in the elderly are common and frequently undetected, and therefore a potential target for a screening program.

Method: Using Medline, Psychinfo and reference lists from relevant publications, articles were identified testing pen-and-paper screens in the primary care population aged over 60 years.

Results: Using standard definitions of alcohol problems, conventional screens adapted for use in the elderly have performances similar to screens in the younger primary care population. However, it can be argued that special screens perform better for the elderly.

Conclusions: The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test is a useful screen for detecting harmful and hazardous drinking in the elderly while the CAGE is valuable when screening for dependence. In the future, the Alcohol-Related Problems Survey, a computer-based screen, may prove to be superior if practical implementation problems can be overcome.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • International Classification of Diseases
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Surveys and Questionnaires