Reviews in Clinical Gerontology

Clinical geriatrics

Alcohol use among older adults

Philip D St Johna1 c1, Wanda M Snowa2 and Suzanne L Tyasa3

a1 Section of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Medicine, and the Centre on Aging, University of Manitoba, Canada

a2 Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba, Canada

a3 Department of Health Studies and Gerontology, and Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Canada


Alcohol use is common in older adults and is associated with numerous health and social problems. Recent evidence suggests that in addition to level of alcohol consumption, drinking pattern may also be important. Moderate alcohol intake may confer some cardiac benefits, while heavy episodic drinking seems particularly problematic. Detecting alcohol misuse in older adults is difficult since clinical acumen is often poor, screening questionnaires have serious limitations and laboratory tests are not diagnostic. Brief alcohol interventions to reduce alcohol consumption appear useful in younger populations, but are less studied in older adults. While there is increasing research into the issue of alcohol use among older adults, clinicians and policy-makers must rely on limited evidence when making clinical decisions.

(Online publication March 02 2010)


c1 Address for correspondence: Philip St John, GG 441 Health Sciences Centre, 820 Sherbrook Street, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3A 1R9. Email: