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Many Over 50 Are Binge Drinkers

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, August 21, 2009 2:18 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Alcohol, Binge Drinking, Duke University, Baby Boomers

Five or more drinks a day at one sitting affects 23 percent of men ages 50 to 64, reports Duke University researchers.

Binge Drinking Affects All Ages

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IMAGE SOURCE:  ©iStockphoto/ senior pensioner having a pint/ author: BCFC


We don’t usually associate binge drinking, that is guzzling large quantities of alcoholic beverages in one sitting, with older people. Instead it is usually considered a college rite of passage.

But a new study, by Duke University Medical Center researchers, finds binge drinking is a problem for people older than age 50.

The study is published on the Web site of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks on the same occasion within the past 30 days.

Among men age 50-to-64, 23 percent report drinking five or more drinks at a time. Nine percent of women fall into that category, but their smaller body size makes the impact of alcohol more profound.

And the numbers are higher when you consider heavy or at-risk drinking - that is two or more drinks per day. For men, 19 percent fell into that category, 13 percent of women.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), is the largest survey so far on substance abuse among people older than 50.

Very few older drinkers make it to recovery and resulting health problems associated with alcohol could be affecting the baby boomer generation.

Among those age 65 and older, 14 percent of men and 3 percent of women engage in binge drinking, according to researchers.

For men, binge drinking was associated with a higher income and being separated, divorced, or widowed. For all respondents, binge drinking was associated with the use of tobacco and illicit drugs.

For women, being African American and less educated was associated with binge drinking, but race and ethnicity and education were not associated with binge drinking in men.

The reasons for excessive drinking in these age groups can include depression, loss of a job, or of a partner.

McClatchy Newspapers reports that drinking is more likely to compound existing health problems and weaken the immune system.

The health risks of binge drinking are often missed by common screening methods, according to Dr. Dan Blazer, who analyzed data for Duke. "Clinicians who work with this age group would be well advised to ask specifically about binge drinking.”

“They might be at risk when driving, or it could affect anxiety or blood pressure medication,” he said. “There are a number of possible health problems, and they are going to be at a greater risk.”

The survey considered nearly 11,000 adults ages 50 and older. The research is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Duke University Medical Center.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health provides annual federal and state level data on the use of alcohol, tobacco, illicit, and non-medical prescription drug use in the U.S. #


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