This systematic review seeks to expand the description and understanding of late-onset AUD and asks "Which risk factors have been reported for late-onset heavy drinking and AUD?"
Method: Using PRISMA guidelines, a literature review and search was performed on May 19, 2015 using the following databases: MEDLINE, EMBASE, PubMed, and PsychInfo. Nine studies were included in the final review.
Results: The search revealed that only very few studies have been conducted. Hence, the evidence is limited but suggests that stress, role/identity loss, and friends' approval of drinking are associated with an increased risk for late-onset AUD or heavy drinking, whereas retirement, death of a spouse or a close relative does not increase the risk.
Discussion: Inherent differences in measurements and methodologies precluded a meta-analysis. Therefore, the results presented here are descriptive in nature. Most studies base their conclusions on a certain preconception of older adults with alcohol problems, which leads to a row of circular arguments. The factors that have been measured seem to have changed over time.
Conclusion: There has been a lack of focus on the field of late-onset AUD since the 1970s, which possibly has led to misrepresentations and preconceptions on the complex nature of late-onset AUD. There is limited evidence for any specific risk factor for late-onset AUD or heavy drinking. We suggest the adoption of a qualitative approach to uncover what is intrinsic to late-onset AUD followed by quantitative studies with more agreement on methods and definitions.
Keywords: Alcohol use disorder; alcohol; late onset; older adults; systematic review.