Date of Award

8-2012

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Kinesiology and Physical Education

Advisor

Glenn Reif

Second Committee Member

Phillip A. Pratt

Third Committee Member

Adrienne A. White

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine non-institutionalized (community-dwelling) adults aged 65 years and older in Knox County, Maine addressing their alcohol abuse and prescription drug misuse. A survey instrument was used to collect data, and to identify behaviors, awareness, and knowledge of this subpopulation. The 81 subjects were made up of 59 females (73%) and 14 males (17%). Eight (10%) did not report their gender. The 65-99 year olds (mean age = 82 years) were white (100%), and of those who answered the questions about their living arrangements (75%), 62% said that they lived alone and 38% said that they lived with one other person. The first part of the survey assessed alcohol use by asking subjects questions to calculate what their alcohol intake was during the past 30 days. With all 81 subjects responding, the frequency distribution data of alcohol intake showed a low of 74% reporting that they had abstained from drinking and a high of 26% reporting that they had at least one drink on at least one occasion during that same 30-day period. Of those drinking, the mean was 9.0. Only 18/59 women and 1/14 males reported drinking. Of this subset of respondents who self-reported drinking the mean alcohol intake for females was statically significantly higher than for males (mean females 2.93, mean males .14). There also was a statistically significant correlation coefficient between alcohol intake and the frequency of social contacts with friends (r = .26, p = .023). This intake increase was for both genders. A similar protocol was used to determine medication problems. A medication problem scale was designed to calculate the sums of the reverse-coded responses to twelve questions. The scale offered the respondent five choices which were recorded, recoded, and then summed so that a high score indicated problems and a low score reflected few problems. The findings for prescription drug problems according to this scale for this subpopulation were statistically insignificant. None of the independent variables of age, gender, living arrangement, or visits with friends or family produced statistically significant data. Neither the data results for alcohol intake or for prescription drug problems aligned with what was found in the research literature. This present study suggested that this inconsistency was due to a lack of local health assessments in the literature and it was determined that local health assessments are a necessary part of the prevention work of public health. This study also offered the caution that public health practitioners and the general consumer need to be careful about relying solely on nationally available data to identify community needs. Adequate state-specific and local data on the health status and service needs of older people are required in order for health planners and policy makers to determine and address the "gap" between current conditions and desired conditions or "wants" of this particular population, especially in smaller rural areas. More research is needed, including both quantitative and qualitative methods, to further the evidence base for prevention programs to address alcohol abuse and prescription drug misuse among older adults. Research to date has proven to be limited and in its early stages.

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