Unhealthy Drinking Patterns and Receipt of Preventive Medical Services by Older Adults

  • Elizabeth L. Merrick
  • Dominic Hodgkin
  • Deborah W. Garnick
  • Constance M. Horgan
  • Lee Panas
  • Marian Ryan
  • Richard Saitz
  • Frederic C. Blow
Original Article



Preventive service use among older adults is suboptimal. Unhealthy drinking may constitute a risk factor for failure to receive these services.


To determine the relationship between unhealthy drinking and receipt of recommended preventive services among elderly Medicare beneficiaries, applying the framework of current alcohol consumption guidelines.


The data source is the nationally representative 2003 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey. The sample included community-dwelling, fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries 65 years and older (N = 10,523). Based on self-reported drinking, respondents were categorized as nondrinkers, within-guidelines drinkers, exceeding monthly but not daily limits, or heavy episodic drinkers. Using survey and claims data, influenza vaccination, pneumonia vaccination, glaucoma screening, and mammogram receipt were determined. Bivariate and logistic regression analyses were conducted.


Overall, 70.3% received flu vaccination and 49% received glaucoma screening during the year, 66.8% received pneumonia vaccination, and 56.2% of women received a mammogram over 2 years. In logistic regression, heavy episodic drinking was associated with lower likelihood of service receipt compared to drinking within guidelines: flu vaccination (OR 0.75, CI 0.59–0.96), glaucoma screening (OR 0.74, CI 0.58–0.95), and pneumonia vaccination (OR 0.75, CI 0.59–0.96). Nondrinkers when compared with those reporting drinking within guidelines were less likely to receive a mammogram (OR 0.83, CI 0.69–1.00).


Heavy episodic drinking is associated with lower likelihood of receiving several preventive services. Practitioners should be encouraged to screen all elders regarding alcohol intake and in addition to appropriate intervention, consider elders reporting heavy episodic drinking at higher risk for non-receipt of preventive services.


unhealthy drinking Medicare beneficiaries preventive services older adults 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth L. Merrick
    • 1
  • Dominic Hodgkin
    • 1
  • Deborah W. Garnick
    • 1
  • Constance M. Horgan
    • 1
  • Lee Panas
    • 1
  • Marian Ryan
    • 1
  • Richard Saitz
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Frederic C. Blow
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Institute for Behavioral Health, Heller School for Social Policy and ManagementBrandeis UniversityWalthamUSA
  2. 2.Boston University School of Medicine, Clinical Addiction Research and Education (CARE) Unit, Section of General Internal MedicineBoston Medical CenterBostonUSA
  3. 3.Youth Alcohol Prevention CenterBoston University School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of EpidemiologyBoston University School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  6. 6.Department of Veterans Affairs, Health Services Research and DevelopmentSerious Mental Illness Treatment Research and Evaluation CenterAnn ArborUSA

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