Versão em Português

Brief intervention to reduce risky alcohol consumption has been shown to be effective on the elderly

03 Abril 2024

A study carried out by researchers from São Paulo University observed a reduction in risky alcohol consumption in elderly people using the brief intervention protocol.

The harmful use of alcohol among the elderly population causes serious health complications and can even lead to death. It is known that alcohol is the 7th biggest risk factor for the total burden of disease among individuals aged 50 to 69 years and the 10th for individuals over 70 years of age (1).

According to WHO (World Health Organization), brief intervention (BI) is one of the most cost-effective measures for treating harmful alcohol use (2). This therapeutic approach, widely used to treat alcoholism, can also be applied to other mental health disorders. It consists of a set of practices that aim to identify a real or potential problem related to alcohol use, and motivate the person to do something about it.

Recently, researchers from the University of São Paulo (USP), in Ribeirão Preto, evaluated the effectiveness of brief intervention in reducing risky alcohol consumption by elderly people receiving care in Primary Health Care (3). The study, carried out in the city of Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, involved individuals aged 60 or over who reported using alcohol, classified as having scores ≥ 5 and ≤ 19 on the brief intervention protocol used. The majority of participants were male, married, with a family income between 1 and 3 minimum wages, part of this group being retired, with between 1 and 4 years of education. According to the research author, the characteristics of BI in the elderly may include the provision of information about health behaviors and the risks associated with the level of consumption; interpretation of screening results and discussion about the reasons for drinking and its possible consequences, getting to know their support networks and negotiating a change plan to reduce alcohol consumption.

The sociodemographic results of the research showed that 46.5% (n=234) of participants had low-risk consumption; 44.5% (n=224) had a risky alcohol consumption pattern and 9.1% (n=46) were possible dependents. For individuals who presented a risky consumption pattern, the study evaluated the brief intervention protocol, analyzing the alcohol consumption pattern, the amount of drinks, the frequency and the binge drinking behavior of these individuals before and after being subjected to intervention or the delivery of information leaflets (control group).

As the main outcome, the study showed a significant reduction in the pattern of alcohol consumption in the group in which the brief intervention was applied, over time (between 3 and 6 months). Furthermore, a decrease in habitual consumption and binge drinking behavior was observed. Thus, the study concludes with the recommendation of a brief intervention protocol for elderly people at risk of alcohol consumption assisted by Primary Health Care.

Alcohol is one of the main risk factors for the global burden of disease in people aged 50 and over and the consequences of harmful alcohol consumption during this age range from deficits in cognitive and intellectual functioning to the recurrence of other alcohol-related health problems. Therefore, monitoring by health professionals aimed at this population is essential to understand this behavior and its consequences so that, subsequently, appropriate guidelines and treatments can be developed to better care for the elderly's health.


Additional Info

  • Referências:

    1. Murray CJL, Aravkin AY, Zheng P, Abbafati C, Abbas KM, Abbasi-Kangevari M, et al. Global burden of 87 risk factors in 204 countries and territories, 1990–2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. The Lancet. 2020 Oct;396(10258):1223–49.
    2. WHO. SAFER - Brief interventions and treatment [Internet]. Available from:
    3. Lima DW da C. Efetividade da intervenção breve para redução do consumo de risco de álcool em idosos na atenção primária à saúde [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2023 Nov 23]. Available from:

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