Categorized | Healthy Lifestyle

Boomers on a bender: Is alcohol use killing us?

man, drinking, alcohol

Alcohol is the most commonly used psychoactive substance among older adults.

And this group can have unique risks associated with its consumption — in even lower amounts — compared to younger persons. “Older adults have particular vulnerabilities to alcohol due to physiological changes during aging, including increasing chronic disease burden and medication use,” said Benjamin Han, MD, MPH, a geriatrician and health services researcher at the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) and in the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYU Langone).

“However, no recent studies have estimated trends in alcohol use, including binge alcohol use and use disorders among older adults,” said Han.

To address the lack of research, Han and his team examined data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (years 2005 to 2014) in a paper published  the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Trends of self-reported past-month binge use and use disorder were examined among adults age 50 and older.

Women and Alcohol Abuse

The researchers found significant increases in past-year alcohol use, past-month use, past-month binge drinking, and use disorders. Results also suggest that while men had a higher prevalence of binging than women, binging and use disorder increased among women in this nationally representative sample.

“As females age, they tend to experience a larger impact of physiological changes in lean body mass compared to men,” said Han. “Thus, they may experience the adverse effects associated with consuming alcohol even in lower amounts.”

“The increase in binge drinking among older women is particularly alarming,” said Dr. Palamar, PhD, MPH, a CDUHR affiliated researcher and an assistant professor of Population Health at NYU Langone. “Both men and women are at risk for getting themselves into risky sexual situations while drinking, but women are at particularly high risk.” Palamar also said that “heavy drinking can not only have unintended health consequences, but it can also lead to socially embarrassing or regretful behavior.”

For the researchers, the results also raise public health concerns, given the significant increases in binge drinking among older adults who reported “fair/poor” health and/or multiple chronic conditions. This population is particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of the habit as it can impact chronic disease management or increase the risk of injury.

“Health care providers need to be made aware of this increasing trend of unhealthy alcohol use, particularly among older females, and ensure that screening for unhealthy alcohol use is part of regular medical care for this population,” said Han. — Newswise


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