Date of Award

Spring 2018

Project Type


Program or Major

Social Work

Degree Name

Master of Social Work

First Advisor

BoRin Kim

Second Advisor

Anita R Tucker

Third Advisor

Kathryne Brewer


Alcohol abuse among the elderly population is rapidly becoming a widespread public health concern. As it goes undetected and undiagnosed in many within this age cohort, there is an increased need to further examine the effects of alcohol consumption on physical and mental health. This study investigated how and to what extent drinking behaviors affect physical and mental health in older people. Data came from the 2012 and 2014 Health and Retirement study, a nationally representative survey of Americans aged 51 and older. Our sample was restricted to people who participated in both waves of the survey from 2012 and 2014 (N=19,719). Drinking behavior was split into three groups: non-drinker, moderate drinker, and binge drinker. Three independent variables were examined to explore overall health of respondents: self-rated health, chronic conditions, and depression. Chi-squares and ANOVA testing were used to determine characteristics of binge drinkers in old age. OLS regression was used to examine how drinking behavior affected self-rated health and chronic conditions and logistic regression was used to explore how drinking behavior affected depression in old age.

We found that non-drinkers have the worst physical and mental health with a self-rated health score of 3.09 (SD = 1.07) and the highest number of chronic conditions (2.47; SD = 1.58). Moderate drinkers were found to be the most depressed (1.94, SD = 1.80). Binge drinkers were most likely to be Hispanic (26.16%), male (97.93%), unmarried (98.09%) elders. Additionally, binge drinkers were the youngest group of respondents (60.88, SD = 7.98) and had the least amount of education (11.81 years, SD = 2.86). The findings of this study once again suggest further research into the affects of drinking behavior on health in old age is needed to better serve this population