Aims: To estimate the gender-specific prevalences of alcohol consumption levels and to investigate the association between heavy drinking and all-cause mortality among elderly males.
Design: A cohort derived from a nationally representative sample of Finns aged >65 years was followed for six years. Number of subjects was 1569 (72.7% of the original sample, 65.3% females, weighted n=1357).
Measurements: Alcohol consumption was retrospectively measured by beverage-specific quantity and frequency over a 12-month period. Mortality data were obtained from the official Cause-of-Death Register. Cox proportional hazards models were used to analyse the relative risks (RRs) of death.
Findings: The prevalence of heavy drinking (>8 standard drinks per week) was 20.3% in males and 1.2% in females. Over one-tenth (11.4%) of males reported drinking > or =15 standard drinks per week. Relative death risks suggested a J-curved relationship between alcohol consumption levels and mortality. However, significant curvilinear relationship was not found, when using alcohol consumption as continuous variable. The multivariate adjusted RR of death among moderate drinkers (1-7 drinks per week) vs. abstinent subjects was 0.41 (95% CI=.23-.72). Males drinking > or =15 standard drinks per week had a two-fold multivariate adjusted risk of death (RR=2.11, 95% CI=1.19-3.75) compared with abstinent males. The level of alcohol consumption by females was too low for analysis.
Conclusions: Heavy drinking is common among Finnish elderly males but not among females. The present study shows an increased all-cause mortality risk for males drinking, on average, more than two standard drinks per day.
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