Background: Alcohol problems in the elderly are common and frequently undetected, and therefore a potential target for a screening program.
Method: Using Medline, Psychinfo and reference lists from relevant publications, articles were identified testing pen-and-paper screens in the primary care population aged over 60 years.
Results: Using standard definitions of alcohol problems, conventional screens adapted for use in the elderly have performances similar to screens in the younger primary care population. However, it can be argued that special screens perform better for the elderly.
Conclusions: The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test is a useful screen for detecting harmful and hazardous drinking in the elderly while the CAGE is valuable when screening for dependence. In the future, the Alcohol-Related Problems Survey, a computer-based screen, may prove to be superior if practical implementation problems can be overcome.