Differences Between Elderly And Non-Elderly Alcoholics In Treatments: Referral Source, Compliance, Service Provision And Improvement

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Data provided by the National Alcoholism Program Information System on 2702 alcoholics age 60 and over and 2537 alcoholics age 21 to 59 who received treatment at National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism funded treatment facilities in 1978 were analyzed to determine differences between the Elderly and Non-Elderly. The data consisted of self-report demographic and drinking history information, an accounting of the treatment received by the alcoholics, and change measures assessed at a 180 day follow-up. Results were that behavioral impairment resulting from alcohol abuse slightly increased with age. The Elderly were more likely to continue treatment and less likely to drop out than the Non-Elderly. Alcoholics who were legal referrals had the greatest proportion of treatment completion. The smallest proportion of alcoholics who were rated greatly improved at follow-up were self referred alcoholics, and the greatest proportion of alcoholics rated worse were medical referrals. Only those alcoholics who rated their health at intake as excellent had a greater proportion of completers than dropouts. The Elderly were in treatment longer, and they received more crisis intervention, follow-up and aftercare, medical and social detoxification, residential treatment and inpatient treatment than the Non-Elderly. This indicates that those age 60 and over required more treatment to recover from the toxic effects of alcohol abuse, and that greater efforts were made to maintain the treatment gains made by the Elderly than the Non-Elderly. Among the Elderly, a greater proportion of females and non-whites completed than dropped out of treatment, but the opposite was true of males and whites. A greater proportion of Elderly alcoholics who were married or living with a spouse completed treatment as compared with others. Each Age Group showed comparable changes at Follow-up, with the degree of impairment and alcohol consumption at intake being the best post-dictor of the amount of change at follow-up. Of the Elderly alcoholics, 28.7% began drinking heavily or frequently after age 55. These late onset alcoholics were older and more likely to be female than early onset alcoholics. The late onset alcoholics were slightly less behaviorally impaired, but they did not respond to treatment differently than early onset alcoholics.


Psychology, Clinical

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