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Older adults with alcohol use disorder experience improved quality of life through alcohol treatment

It's never too late to start, as evidenced by the latest research. Older adults dealing with alcohol use disorder can be helped towards a better quality of life.

By Marianne Lie Becker, , 1/1/0001

Recent research from the University of Southern Denmark suggests that even a modest reduction in alcohol consumption and participation in a treatment program can make a significant difference for individuals aged 60 and older with a notable alcohol intake.

A long life with alcohol abuse may seem impossible to change. The question arises: Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Concerning older adults with alcohol use disorder, researchers often harbor the prejudice that attempting to persuade them to seek treatment is futile.

Now, a study from UCAR - Unit for Clinical Alcohol Research at the University of Southern Denmark shows that it does make a difference.

Treatment improves quality of life

Older adults undergoing treatment experience an improved quality of life, whether they choose to abstain from alcohol entirely or reduce their consumption.

- Our study can hopefully dispel a myth—namely, that older adults with alcohol use disorder don't necessarily need treatment due to a misguided notion that alcohol might be the last thing providing them with a quality of life," says Jeppe Tryggedsson, a candidate in public health science and a PhD student at UCAR - Unit for Clinical Alcohol Research, who is the lead author of the study.

In the research project, Jeppe Tryggedsson and his colleagues examined data from older adults receiving alcohol treatment. These individuals, as part of treatment, answered questions about their quality of life. The participants were followed for up to one year after commencing treatment.

- At times, achieving complete abstinence isn't realistic, especially for patients dependent on alcohol. Even starting from a high point, a reduction yields a significant effect. Both the treatment process and the post-treatment period are pivotal," states Jeppe Tryggedsson.

While quantifying the improvement in quality of life may not reveal substantial changes, according to Jeppe Tryggedsson, it does demonstrate the effectiveness of treating older adults for alcohol use disorder. At the very least, it doesn't diminish their quality of life.

- We observe that individuals who completely abstain from drinking and those who reduce their intake both experience improvements in quality of life. This improvement extends across all domains – mentally, physically, socially, and environmentally.

Physicians and Therapists need to address alcohol use

Jeppe Tryggedsson believes that these results can serve to enlighten therapists and physicians, highlighting the importance of encouraging older adults with alcohol use disorder to seek treatment.

- When they observe signs of alcohol-related issues in patients, they should address it without hesitation and confront potential abuse. In doing so, they are providing a valuable service to the patients, even if the patients may not recognize it as such.


Meet the researcher

Jeppe Tryggedsson is a candidate in public health science and a PhD student at the UCAR - Unit for Clinical Alcohol Research.


About the study:

The researchers utilized data from the Elderly Study, a multinational randomized controlled clinical trial, conducted from January 2014 to May 2016. The study was conducted in six different treatment institutions in three countries: Denmark (Copenhagen, Aarhus, and Odense), Germany (Munich and Dresden), and the United States (Albuquerque, New Mexico). The study consisted of 693 patients aged 60 years or older.

Patients underwent treatment for alcohol use disorder through a conversation-based therapy method, called motivational enhancement therapy aimed at enhancing motivation levels for behavior change and promoting engagement in the treatment process. Patients completed questionnaires at the beginning of treatment and were subsequently followed up at 4 weeks, 12 weeks, 6 months, and 12 months later. Information on sociodemographic factors, alcohol consumption, quality of life, and much more was collected during these follow-ups.

Do you want to know more?
Read more about the study in the scientific article.

Three benefits of reducing alcohol consumption

  1. Improved Health: Reducing alcohol consumption can lead to enhanced physical and mental well-being. Alcohol abuse is associated with a wide range of health issues, including liver damage, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and mental health problems. By cutting down on alcohol, the risk of these health problems decreases.
  2. Improved Quality of Life: Decreased alcohol consumption can result in an improved quality of life. Alcohol abuse can negatively affect relationships, work, and overall happiness. By limiting alcohol intake, one can improve family life, career opportunities, and personal well-being.
  3. Financial Advantages: Alcohol often constitutes a significant expense. By reducing alcohol consumption, significant amounts of money can be saved and used for other purposes such as travel, education, or future investments.
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