Alcohol Consumption and Physical Functioning Among Middle-Aged and Older Adults in Central and Eastern Europe: Results From the HAPIEE Study

Age Ageing. 2015 Jan;44(1):84-9. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afu083. Epub 2014 Jun 30.


Background: light-to-moderate drinking is apparently associated with a decreased risk of physical limitations in middle-aged and older adults.

Objective: to investigate the association between alcohol consumption and physical limitations in Eastern European populations.

Study design: a cross-sectional survey of 28,783 randomly selected residents (45-69 years) in Novosibirsk (Russia), Krakow (Poland) and seven towns of Czech Republic.

Methods: physical limitations were defined as <75% of optimal physical functioning using the Physical Functioning (PF-10) Subscale of the Short-Form-36 questionnaire. Alcohol consumption was assessed by a graduated frequency questionnaire, and problem drinking was defined as ≥2 positive responses on the CAGE questionnaire. In the Russian sample, past drinking was also assessed.

Results: the odds of physical limitations were highest among non-drinkers, decreased with increasing drinking frequency, annual consumption and average drinking quantity and were not associated with problem drinking. The adjusted odds ratio (OR) of physical limitations in non-drinkers versus regular moderate drinkers was 1.61 (95% confidence interval: 1.48-1.75). In the Russian sample with past drinking available, the adjusted OR in those who stopped drinking for health reasons versus continuing drinkers was 3.19 (2.58-3.95); ORs in lifetime abstainers, former drinkers for non-health reasons and reduced drinkers for health reasons were 1.27 (1.02-1.57), 1.48 (1.18-1.85) and 2.40 (2.05-2.81), respectively.

Conclusion: this study found an inverse association between alcohol consumption and physical limitations. The high odds of physical limitations in non-drinkers can be largely explained by poor health of former drinkers. The apparently protective effect of heavier drinking was partly due to less healthy former heavy drinkers who moved to lower drinking categories.

Keywords: Central and Eastern Europe; ageing; alcohol consumption; older people; physical functioning.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Czech Republic / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Poland / epidemiology
  • Protective Factors
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Russia / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires