One of the largest surveys of substance use has found a remarkable amount of binge-drinking among older Americans. The findings, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, were reported by researchers at Duke University Medical Center.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found
that 22 percent of men and 9 percent of women aged 50 to 64 reported binge
drinking -- five or more drinks at a time -- within the last month. In this age
group, "at-risk" drinking -- two or more drinks per day -- was found among 19
percent of men and 13 percent of women.
The group aged 65 and up reported binge drinking in
14 percent of men and 3 percent of women. "At-risk" drinking was found among 13
percent of men and eight percent of women in this age group.
surprising number of older Americans are engaging in drinking patterns that are
putting their health at risk, yet these problems often go unrecognized," said Dan G. Blazer MD, PhD, the study's lead author and JP
Gibbons Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke. "With
this study we've learned that adults, especially those in their fifties, are
carrying a heavier drinking burden into late life."
explained that this trend illustrates a potentially greater problem in the
future as the baby boomer generation ages. He said that if their current
drinking habits continue into their senior years, they could be compounding
health problems that typically arise as the body's natural defenses are
weakened. The negative health effects of binge drinking can range from minor
injuries to more serious problems, such as stroke, cardiovascular disease,
liver disease, neurological damage and poor diabetes control.
The authors propose a more rigorous use of
screening for substance use and brief intervention or counseling to address the
rise in alcohol use.
age and older adults may be easy to miss for at-risk or binge drinking because
most clinicians are focused on excessive drinking behaviors among young people,
such as those in college," Blazer said. "They also don't show the typical signs
of alcohol dependence."
A nationally representative survey of nearly 11,000
men and women over 50 asked about their use of alcohol over the last year and
the usual number of drinks they consumed on a drinking day during the past 30
days. The survey was conducted in 2005 and 2006. Binge drinking and at-risk
drinking were defined by American Geriatrics Society Guidelines.
findings from the study include:
Overall 66 percent of men and 55 percent of women
reported alcohol use during the past year.
Binge drinking was more common among those with a
higher income and people who use tobacco and illicit drugs.
Caucasian (19 percent), African-American (21
percent) and Hispanic (25 percent) men had a higher prevalence of binge
drinking than other ethnic groups (14 percent).
African-American women had a higher prevalence of
binge drinking relative to Caucasian women (10 percent vs. 6 percent).
Being separated, divorced or widowed was associated
with at-risk and binge drinking among men. Non-medical use of prescription
drugs was associated with binge drinking in women.
The research was supported by a grant from the National
Institute on Drug Abuse. Li-Tzy Wu is the study's co-author.