Alcohol Consumption Levels and All-Cause Mortality Among Women Veterans and Non-Veterans Enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative

Tracy L Simpson, Eileen Rillamas-Sun, Keren Lehavot, Christine Timko, Amy Rubin, Michael A Cucciare, Emily C Williams, Claudia B Padula, Julie R Hunt, Katherine J Hoggatt
Gerontologist 2016, 56 Suppl 1: S138-49

PURPOSE: To address research gaps regarding women Veterans' alcohol consumption and mortality risk as compared to non-Veterans, the current study evaluated whether alcohol consumption amounts differed between women Veterans and non-Veterans, whether Veterans and non-Veterans within alcohol consumption groups differed on all-cause mortality, and whether Veteran status modified the association between alcohol consumption and all-cause mortality.

DESIGN AND METHODS: Six alcohol consumption groups were created using baseline data from the Women's Health Initiative Program (N = 145,521): lifelong abstainers, former drinkers, less than 1 drink/week (infrequent drinkers), 1-7 drinks/week (moderate drinkers), 8-14 drinks/week (moderately heavy drinkers), and 15 or more drinks/week (heavy drinkers). The proportions of Veteran and non-Veteran women within each alcohol consumption category were compared. Mortality rates within each alcohol consumption category were compared by Veteran status. Cox proportional hazard models, including a multiplicative interaction term for Veteran status, were fit to estimate adjusted mortality hazard (rate) ratios for each alcohol consumption category relative to a reference group of either lifelong abstainers or moderate drinkers.

RESULTS: Women Veterans were less likely to be lifelong abstainers than non-Veterans. Women Veterans who were former or moderate drinkers had higher age-adjusted mortality rates than did non-Veterans within these alcohol consumption categories. In the fully adjusted multivariate models, Veteran status did not modify the association between alcohol consumption category and mortality with either lifelong abstainers or moderate drinkers as referents.

IMPLICATIONS: The results suggest that healthcare providers may counsel Veteran and non-Veteran women in similar ways regarding safe and less safe levels of alcohol consumption.

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