Seniors, Can We Talk About Your Drinking?

A 50 percent increase in binge drinking over a decade in older adults.

Posted Aug 01, 2019

S_Photo/Shutterstock
Source: S_Photo/Shutterstock

A report published yesterday documents a disturbing increase in heavy drinking in older adults (65+ years of age). What NIAAA (the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) defines as binge drinking (5+ drinks per occasion for men, 4+ for women) has increased 50%, from about 7% in 2006 to 10.6% in the latest Household Survey from 2015-2017.

This increase means that the risk of alcohol-related problems on any single occasion of drinking has increased. To me (a senior myself), the obvious immediate risk is falling from losing one's balance when one has drunk too much. It is well known that people experience more balance issues as they age and adding a high blood alcohol level that often goes hand in hand with heavy drinking, can substantially increase that risk. This is one reason (among many) that NIAAA recommends lower limits on drinking for folks over 65 years of age, to 3 drinks per day and not more than 7 per week.

Another concerning aspect of this is the rise in medical and recreational cannabis use in older adults. The data in this report suggest that folks who use cannabis have higher rates of binge drinking compared to those who don't use cannabis. Here again the risks for falls increases. So if you're going to drink or use cannabis, please consider doing this on separate occasions. You'll reduce your risk for harm.

If you have wondered about your drinking, we offer a free online screening at our CheckUpandChoices.com web site. My promise to you is that we won't label you or tell you what to do, if anything. And the feedback you get is both objective and confidential.

References

Han, B.H., Moore, A.A. Ferris, R., Palamar, J.J. (2019). Binge Drinking Among Older Adults in the United States, 2015 to 2017. Journal of American Geriatrics, https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.16071