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10% of Older Adults Are Binge Drinking. That's a Big Deal

When older adults binge drink, there are different risks involved
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2019 4:13 PM CDT
Updated Aug 4, 2019 9:47 AM CDT
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / Farknot_Architect)

(Newser) – There are the usual problems associated with binge drinking—and then there's an additional set of problems associated with binge drinking as you age. And that second set of problems is something we need to be concerned with, say researchers involved in a new study that found an estimated 10.6% of people over age 65 reported binge drinking in the prior 30 days. That's defined as five or more drinks in one sitting for men, or four or more for women. As lead study author Dr. Benjamin Han explains to NBC News, a person's body becomes more sensitive to alcohol the older they get. "They still think they can drink the same way, but the risks increase quite a bit," he says. Researchers say more studies are needed, but rates of binge drinking among older adults may be rising; Time notes the rate of binge drinking among older adults was 7% in 2006.

Binge drinking can make certain chronic health issues, including hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes, worse, and may put people at risk for other chronic conditions including cancer, dementia, and liver disease. It can also cause people to forget to take medications and can put them at risk for falls. The fall risk is increased if they are also using cannabis, and the study found cannabis use was higher among subjects who reported binge drinking—not to mention the fact that falls are the leading cause of broken bones, trauma, and deaths among older adults even when alcohol and cannabis use are not considered. The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, analyzed data on nearly 11,000 people over age 65 who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2015 and 2017. "We focus so much on young people and their risky drinking," says senior author Joseph Palamar. "But this research reminds us that we also have to keep an eye on the older population." (Read more alcohol is bad for you stories.)

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