Older adults, frailty, alcohol, c reactive protein, health and retirement study


Frailty is a well-established indicator of late-life decline and is accompanied by higher rates of comorbidity and disability. Meanwhile, an estimated 41% of adults over the age of 65 report consuming alcohol – an identified health risk and protective factor depending on dosage. Given that the demographic group of older Americans is projected to double by the year 2050, identification of frailty risk and protective factors is imperative. The goals of this thesis are to: (1) identify how varying levels of alcohol consumption relate to frailty, and (2) elucidate a possible mechanism that accounts for the relationship between alcohol consumption and frailty. A sample of stroke-free participants over the age of 65 was identified from the Health and Retirement Study. Study 1 utilized stepwise logistic regression models to identify predictors of prevalent frailty at baseline (2000), and of incident frailty 4, 8, and 12 years later. For both males and females, significant predictors of frailty at all years included age, depressive symptomatology, and medical burden score. In addition, BMI was a significant predictor of frailty for females at all years. With respect to alcohol use, results revealed that drinking 1-7 drinks per week had a protective effect for females at baseline (OR=0.50) and 12 years later (OR=0.75); however, no such protective effects were found for males. Given that extant research has identified CRP as a mediator between the relationship of moderate alcohol use and cardiovascular health benefits, Study 2 used a cross-sectional sample from the 2008 wave to examine the potential mediating role of CRP between moderate alcohol use and reduced frailty risk. Results from structural equation modeling support the hypothesized model that moderate alcohol is associated with less frailty, and that this relationship is partially mediated by CRP levels. Overall findings suggest that moderate alcohol use confers health benefits for females by reducing frailty risk and that CRP is one mechanism by which alcohol use may confer protective effects for frailty. These results provide a starting place in an effort to better understand the protective effects of moderate alcohol use and can assist in improving prevention and treatment efforts for older adults by preventing or prolonging the onset of age-related diseases. Future research should further examine the relationship between alcohol use and frailty and determine if CRP mediates the relationship between moderate alcohol use and other beneficial health outcomes.


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Graduation Date





Paulson, Daniel


Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Psychology; Clinical Psychology








Release Date

December 2015

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences; Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic