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Alcohol use, socioeconomic deprivation and ethnicity in older people
  1. Rahul Rao1,
  2. Peter Schofield2,
  3. Mark Ashworth2
  1. 1Department of Old Age Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Primary Care and Public Health Sciences, King's College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rahul Rao; tony.rao{at}


Objectives This study explores the relationship between alcohol consumption, health, ethnicity and socioeconomic deprivation.

Participants 27 991 people aged 65 and over from an inner-city population, using a primary care database.

Primary and Secondary Outcome Measures Primary outcome measures were alcohol use and misuse (>21 units per week for men and >14 for units per week women).

Results Older people of black and minority ethnic (BME) origin from four distinct ethnic groups comprised 29% of the sample. A total of 9248 older drinkers were identified, of whom 1980 (21.4%) drank above safe limits. Compared with older drinkers, older unsafe drinkers contained a higher proportion of males, white and Irish ethnic groups and a lower proportion of Caribbean, African and Asian groups. For older drinkers, the strongest independent predictors of higher alcohol consumption were younger age, male gender and Irish ethnicity. Independent predictors of lower alcohol consumption were Asian, black Caribbean and black African ethnicity. Socioeconomic deprivation and comorbidity were not significant predictors of alcohol consumption in older drinkers. For older unsafe drinkers, the strongest predictor variables were younger age, male gender and Irish ethnicity; comorbidity was not a significant predictor. Lower socioeconomic deprivation was a significant predictor of unsafe consumption whereas African, Caribbean and Asian ethnicity were not.

Conclusions Although under-reporting in high-alcohol consumption groups and poor health in older people who have stopped or controlled their drinking may have limited the interpretation of our results, we suggest that closer attention is paid to ‘young older’ male drinkers, as well as to older drinkers born outside the UK and those with lower levels of socioeconomic deprivation who are drinking above safe limits.


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