Background: Little is known about the sociodemographic correlates and health effects associated with lifetime alcohol misuse in community dwelling elderly people in Brazil.
Method: Data were obtained from a representative sample of 6961 residents aged 60+ in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. The structured interview included a five-item lifetime alcohol use questionnaire addressing abuse and dependence, and questions regarding sociodemographic characteristics, lifestyle and social support, and health conditions.
Results: In the interview, 10.6% respondents (25.3% men, 2.9% women) endorsed at least one lifetime alcohol misuse question. Controlled analyses comparing a gradient of alcohol misuse (none, one or more than one item endorsed), found that men, people aged 60–69 (compared to older persons) and tobacco users were more likely to endorse alcohol misuse items. Persons reporting lower income and who were of non-white race/ethnicity did not differ from their comparison groups with respect to endorsing one item, but they were more likely to endorse two or more items. Endorsing more than one item was associated with impaired activities of daily living, the presence of respiratory problems and psychiatric disorders, but was protective against vascular conditions.
Conclusions: Major lifetime alcohol misuse (defined as endorsing more than one of five items reflecting alcohol abuse or dependence) is more common in certain sociodemographic groups (men, younger elderly, lower income, non-whites). With the exception of vascular conditions, it is associated with smoking, poorer functional status, respiratory problems, and psychiatric disorder. Endorsing only one item has a reduced association, significant only for male gender, smoking, and psychiatric disorder.