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Older Adults with Alcohol Use Disorder Experience Improved Quality of Life Through Alcohol Treatment

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By Marianne Lie Becker,, 11/17/2023

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.

We 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.

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Schedule5 Dec 2023