Binge drinking is increasing among older adults, and health officials aren’t happy about it

Toby Talbot | AP
Toby Talbot | AP
One in 10 adults aged 65 or older binge drink, according to a study released on Wednesday. This photo was taken in 2004 at a tavern in Montpelier, Vermont.
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One in 10 U.S. adults age 65 or older binge drank in the past month, a trend that worries health officials because it can exacerbate existing maladies and contribute to more falls, according to a new study released Wednesday.
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One in 10 U.S. adults aged 65 or older binge drank in the past month, a trend that worries health officials because it can exacerbate existing maladies and contribute to more falls, according to a new study released Wednesday.

Binge drinkers are more likely to be male and currently use tobacco, cannabis or both. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as five drinks or more on the same occasion for men and four drinks or more for women.

“Binge drinking, even episodically or infrequently, may negatively affect other health conditions by exacerbating disease, interacting with prescribed medications and complicating disease management,” said Dr. Benjamin Han, the study’s lead author and a professor at New York University, in a statement.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, examined national trends from 2015 to 2017. It did not break down data by state.

However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which tracks binge drinking by all adults age 18 and older, found that 20.2 percent of Maine adults binge drank in 2015which was the ninth highest among states. Tennessee was the lowest at 10.9 percent and North Dakota the highest at 24.9 percent.

Lori Parham, Maine state director of the American Association of Retired Persons, did not comment on any trends in drinking among older Mainers. She said her group focuses on providing resources to help people take control of their health as they age.

“By providing tools, resources and information, we hope to create an environment where our members can lead their healthiest lives possible in mind, body and spirit,” she wrote in an email to the Bangor Daily News. “It’s one reason we are offering more outdoor and fun activities to support our members being active and connecting with others.”

The cost to Maine for excessive alcohol consumption totaled $938.7 million, or $1.58 per drink and $707 per capita, the federal government said. The cost includes accidents, falls, violence and alcohol poisoning.

Most binge drinkers still are in the 18-34 age group, and most people who binge drink are not dependent on alcohol, according to the centers.

The authors of the New York University study estimated that 10.6 percent of older adults have binge drank in the past month, an increase from the average 7.7 percent to 9 percent in earlier data from 2005 through 2014.

The research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and researchers studied data from 10,927 U.S. adults 65 and older who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2015 and 2017.



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