Journal Article

The characteristics and treatment outcomes of people with very late onset of problem drinking


Background. The characteristics and outcomes of people who begin to experience problems with alcohol later in life are not well understood. This study examines whether people with a very late-onset of problem drinking, defined as occurring after the age of 60, differ in their use of alcohol, mental health functioning, and alcohol treatment outcomes from people with an earlier onset of problem drinking. Method. Seven hundred eighty participants aged 50+ were categorized as either early onset (<25 years, n = 119, 15%), mid-onset (25–39 years, n = 200, 26%), late-onset (40–59 years, n = 376, 48%) or very late-onset problem drinkers (≥60 years, n = 85, 11%). Participants completed measures on alcohol use, mental health, and cognitive functioning. Results. Eleven percent of participants had very late onset of problem drinking. After controlling for age as a covariate, age of onset of problem drinking was not associated with level of alcohol intake or cognitive functioning, but individuals with very late onset of problem drinking had significantly lower levels of depression and significantly better mental health well-being. Age of onset was not associated with treatment outcomes (i.e., change in alcohol use following treatment or treatment completion). Conclusion. People who first experience problems with alcohol after the age of 60 may have better mental health functioning than people with an earlier age of problem drinking. The results suggest that the age of onset of problem drinking may be a poor predictor of alcohol use severity and treatment outcomes and older adults can benefit from alcohol treatment irrespective of the age problem drinking began.

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Seddon, Jennifer
Wadd, Sarah

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development


Year of publication: 2023
Date of RADAR deposit: 2023-04-24

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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