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Friday, October 17, 2008

Psychiatric comorbidity in older long-term abstinent alcoholics
Addictive Behaviors Volume 33, Issue 12, December 2008, Pages 1564-1571

We compared 89 older abstinent alcoholics (OAA, mean abstinence of 14.8 years), to 53 age and gender-comparable older non-alcoholic controls (ONC) with regard to lifetime and current psychiatric diagnoses, lifetime psychiatric symptom counts, and psychological measures in the mood, anxiety, and externalizing disorder domains. We compared these findings with our previously reported results in analogous middle-aged samples (MAA versus MNC).

OAA had more lifetime psychiatric and mood disorder diagnoses than ONC. They also had more lifetime symptoms and psychological test evidence of psychiatric disorder in all domains. However, OAA were less different from ONC than were MAA from MNC on most psychiatric and psychological measures. In both studies, differences between alcoholics and controls were dramatically larger in the externalizing compared with the mood and anxiety domains, and there was little evidence that psychiatric comorbidity measures impacted abstinence duration.

The finding that OAA had less psychiatric illness than MAA may involve a combination of selective survivorship, selection bias, and cohort differences. Although selection bias may be present in clinical studies of samples of any age, it is a more potent problem in older samples.

However, given these potential biases, our results underestimate psychiatric comorbidity in OAA, strengthening our finding of increased psychiatric disorder in OAA versus ONC.

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