Older women who routinely drink alcohol may experience health benefits, but they are also at risk for adverse effects. Despite the importance of their drinking patterns, few studies have analyzed longitudinal data on changes in drinking among community-based samples of women ages 50 and older. Reported here are findings from a semi-parametric group-based model that used data from 4,439 randomly sampled U.S. women who enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and completed ≥ 3 biannual alcohol assessments during 1998-2008. The best-fitting model based on the drinks per day data had four trajectories labeled as "Increasing Drinkers" (5.3% of sample), "Decreasing Drinkers" (5.9%), "Stable Drinkers" (24.2%), and "Non/Infrequent Drinkers" (64.6%). Using group assignments generated by the trajectory model, one adjusted logistic regression analysis contrasted the groups with low alcohol intake in 1998 (Increasing Drinkers and Non/Infrequent Drinkers). In this model, baseline education, physical activity, cigarette smoking, and binge drinking were significant factors. Another analysis compared the groups with higher intake in 1998 (Decreasing Drinkers versus Stable Drinkers). In this comparison, baseline depression, cigarette smoking, binge drinking, and retirement status were significant. Findings underscore the need to periodically counsel all older women on the risks and benefits of alcohol use.
Keywords: alcohol use; older women; risk factors; trajectories.