PLoS One, 2024

Prevalence and change in alcohol consumption in older adults over time, assessed with self-report and Phosphatidylethanol 16:0/18:1 —The HUNT Study

Background: Changes in alcohol consumption may affect older adults’ health. We examined prevalence and changes in the alcohol consumption of older women and men (≥65 years) in Norway over a 24-year period.

Methods: Data from three population-based health surveys (The Trøndelag Health Study-HUNT2 1995-97, HUNT3 2006-08, HUNT4 2017-19) were used. Alcohol consumption was measured using self-reported measures and an objective measure of alcohol consumption (Phosphatidylethanol 16:0/18:1, PEth). Self-reported lifetime abstinence, former drinking, current drinking, frequent drinking (≥4 times/week), and risk drinking (≥8 units/week) were measured. The PEth concentrations were stratified: <0.03 μmol/l (abstinence/very low level of alcohol consumption); >0.06 μmol/l (indicating >1 unit/day); >0.10 μmol/l (indicating >3 units/day), and >0.30 μmol/l (heavy alcohol consumption).

Results: In HUNT4, the prevalence of self-reported lifetime abstinence, frequent drinking, and risk drinking was 5.2%, 4.4%, and 5.6%, respectively, while prevalence of PEth <0.03 μmol/l was 68.1% and PEth >0.06 μmol/l was 21.2%. Over the course of the three surveys, the prevalence of self-reported lifetime abstinence decreased, while the prevalence of frequent drinking and risk drinking increased. Men were less often abstainers and more often frequent and risky drinkers than women in all three surveys. Gender differences for abstinence and current drinking reduced with time. From HUNT3 to HUNT4, the prevalence of PEth <0.03 μmol/l decreased, while the prevalence of PEth >0.06 μmol/l increased. Men compared to women, had less often PEth <0.03 μmol/l and more often PEth >0.06 and >0.10 μmol/l in HUNT3 and HUNT4. Women and men ≥75 years were just as likely to have PEth >0.30 μmol/l in HUNT4. The gender differences in PEth concentrations were reduced in HUNT4 among those aged 70-74 years or ≥75 years.

Conclusion: Alcohol consumption has increased among Norwegian older adults over a 24-year period, but at a slower pace during the last decade.


Kjerstin Tevik, Ragnhild Bergene Skråstad, Jūratė Šaltytė Benth, Geir Selbæk, Sverre Bergh, Rannveig Sakshaug Eldholm, Steinar Krokstad & Anne-Sofie Helvik

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