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12/13/2016 12:34 pm ET

Study Reveals Dramatic Rise In Binge Drinking Among Those Over 50

Researchers have connected the uptick in their drinking to health declines.

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc via Getty Images

Baby Boomers ― historically speaking, no strangers to consciousness-altering substances ― are clearly back in the thick of things. A new study just determined that they are binge-drinking with renewed fervor ― news that followed on the heels of another study that found they’ve rediscovered marijuana with something of a vengeance.

Dr. Benjamin Han, a geriatrician and health services researcher at NYU Langone Medical Center, studied data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2005 to 2014 in which participants self-reported their past-month alcohol intake. Han’s team looked to find trends of alcohol use disorder in those aged 50 or older.
The researchers found large increases in binge-drinking ― a 19 percent hike in the number of over-50s drinking excessively in one sitting. Most of the binging is being done by women ― a fact that one researcher called “alarming.”
”Older adults have particular vulnerabilities to alcohol due to physiological changes during aging,” said Han in a press release. “However, no recent studies have estimated trends in alcohol use, including binge alcohol use and alcohol use disorders among older adults.”

Women, the study noted, experience more psychological changes in lean body mass compared to males. Hence, they may experience the adverse effects associated with consuming alcohol even in lower amounts.

So what’s behind the return to substance use? Matching up with the significant increases in binge alcohol use among older adults were those who reported “fair/poor” health and/or multiple chronic conditions. This population is particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of alcohol as it can impact chronic disease management or increase the risk of injury, said Han.

“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” he added.

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