Community based interventions for problematic substance use in later life: a systematic review of evaluated studies and their outcomes

Trish Hafford-Letchfield, Tricia McQuarrie, Carmel Clancy, Betsy Thom, Briony Jain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Problematic substance use (PSU) in later life is a growing global problem of significant concern in tandem with a rapidly ageing global population. Prevention and interventions specifically designed for older people are not common, and those designed for mixed-age groups may fail to address the unique and sometimes complex needs of ageing communities. We report findings from a systematic review of the empirical evidence from studies which formally evaluated interventions used with older people and reported their outcomes. Nineteen studies were included, of which thirteen focused solely on alcohol-related problems. Eight interventions utilised different types of screening, brief advice and education. The remaining drew on behavioural, narrative and integrated or multi-disciplinary approaches, which aimed to meet older people’s needs holistically. Quality assessment of study design helped to review evaluation practice. Findings point to recommendations for sustainable and well-designed intervention strategies for PSU in later life, which purposefully align with other areas of health and well-being and are delivered in locations where older people normally seek, or receive, help. There is further scope for engagement with older people’s own perspectives on their needs and help-seeking behaviours. Economic evaluation of the outcome of interventions would also be useful to establish the value of investing in targeted services to this underserved population.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7994
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2020


  • ageing
  • older people
  • problematic substance use
  • interventions
  • evaluation
  • care services


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