Problem drinking and associated factors in older adults in South Africa

  • K Peltzer
  • N Phaswana-Mafuya
Keywords: Alcohol abuse, Prevalence, Risk factors, Older adults, South Africa


Objective: Alcohol abuse poses special risks for increased morbidity and mortality among older adults. Little attention has focused on assessing alcohol use and associated factors among older adults in transitional societies such as South Africa. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of alcohol use and associated factors in older South Africans who participated in the Study of Global Ageing and Adults Health (SAGE) in 2008.

Method: We conducted a national population-based cross-sectional study with a sample of 3840 aged 50 years or older in South Africa in 2008. In this study we analysed data from all 2144 participants who were over 60 years old. The questionnaire included socio-demographic characteristics, alcohol intake as well as comorbidity. Risky drinking was defined in two ways: heavy drinkers (>7 drinks/week) and binge drinkers (>3 drinks/one occasion/week).

Results: Four percent of participants reported heavy drinking and 3.7% binge drinking. Male gender (Odds Ratio (OR) =3.79, Confidence Interval (CI) =1.38-10.37) and white population group (OR=3.01, CI=1.31-6.89) were associated with risky drinking in multivariate analysis; as well as tobacco use (OR=5.25, CI=2.20-12.52) and not being obese (OR=0.14, CI=0.05-0.35). Hypertension, diabetes and depression were not associated.

Conclusion: This study reveals moderate rates of risky drinking among older adults (60 years and more) in South Africa that puts them at risk of morbidity. Alcohol problems among older adults are commonly under-recognized, indicating a need for health care worker intervention.

Keywords: Alcohol abuse; Prevalence; Risk factors; Older adults; South Africa


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1994-8220