Screening for Drinking Disorders in the Elderly Using the CAGE Questionnaire

Academic Article


  • To assess the performance of the CAGE questionnaire in identifying elderly medicine outpatients with drinking problems. Cross‐sectional design, with the alcohol module of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule as the criterion standard. The outpatient medical practice of an urban university teaching hospital. Consecutive patients 18 years or older who signed a consent form approved by the university's institutional review board. For this study, 323 patients ≥60 years old. Sensitivity, specificity, receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curve and positive predictive value for CAGE scores of 0–4 for patients 60 years or older. Thirty‐three percent of the sample group met study criteria for a history of drinking problems, including 63% of the male patients and 22% of the female patients. The sensitivity and specificity for a cut‐off score of one for all patients was 86% and 78%, respectively, and 70% and 91% for a cut‐off of two. The calculation of the area under the ROC curve was .86, and the positive predictive value of CAGE scores of 0–4 were 33%, 66%, 79%, 82%, and 94%, respectively. The predictive value for any score was higher in males than females, reflecting the higher prevalence of problems in the male population. The CAGE can effectively discriminate elderly patients with a history of drinking problems from those without such a history. The chosen cut‐off score should consider the prevalence of drinking problems in the population being tested. © 1992 The American Geriatrics Society
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Buchsbaum DG; Buchanan RG; Welsh J; Centor RM; Schnoll SH
  • Start Page

  • 662
  • End Page

  • 665
  • Volume

  • 40
  • Issue

  • 7