Patterns of alcohol consumption in the older population of Spain, 2008-2010

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015 Feb;115(2):213-24. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.08.017. Epub 2014 Oct 5.


Background: Older adults are a growing segment of the European population and alcohol is an important cause of disease burden; thus, it is noteworthy that little information is available on alcohol intake among older adults in Europe.

Objective: The aim of this study was to examine alcohol consumption patterns and their association with demographic and clinical variables in the older population of Spain.

Design: This was a cross-sectional study.

Participants/setting: The sample included 3,058 individuals, representative of the Spanish population aged ≥60 years during 2008-2010.

Main outcome measure: Regular alcohol consumption was measured with a validated diet history questionnaire. The threshold between moderate and heavy drinking was ≥40 g alcohol/day in men (≥24 g in women). Binge drinking was defined as intake of ≥80 g alcohol in men (≥60 g in women) during any drinking occasion in the previous month, and problem drinking by a CAGE score ≥2.

Statistical analysis performed: The prevalence and 95% CI of the drinking patterns were calculated after accounting for sampling design.

Results: The prevalence of moderate drinking was 44.3% (95% CI 42.0% to 46.6%) and of heavy drinking was 7.8% (95% CI 6.7% to 8.9%). In total, 68.4% (95% CI 65.7% to 71.2%) of individuals obtained >80% of alcohol from wine and 61.8% (95% CI 58.9% to 64.6%) drank only with meals. Furthermore, 1% (95% CI 0.6% to 1.4%) showed binge drinking and 3.1% (95% CI 2.3% to 3.8%) showed problem drinking. Heavy alcohol consumption was significantly more frequent in men. Moderate alcohol consumption was significantly less frequent among women, persons who were not married, living alone, with a diagnosis of diabetes, receiving treatment for diabetes, and with suboptimal self-rated health. About 5% to 10% of individuals with diagnosed hypertension, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease showed heavy drinking. Among those taking sleeping pills or antidiabetes or antithrombotic treatment, 37% to 46% had moderate alcohol intake and 5% to 8% had heavy intake.

Conclusions: Alcohol consumption among older adults in Spain is frequent and mostly consistent with the traditional Mediterranean drinking pattern. However, a proportion of individuals were heavy drinkers and used medication that may interact with alcohol.

Keywords: Cross-sectional; Drinking patterns; Older adults; Spain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires