Study: More and More Senior Citizens Are Turning to Binge Drinking

The report also suggests some surprisingly good health news

Going in Style
Five million U.S. adults 65 or older are binge drinkers
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By Kirk Miller / July 31, 2019 4:29 pm

A new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that more than 10% of seniors who responded to a survey reported binge drinking within the last month — the highest result in the last decade.

The study was conducted by researchers at New York University from 2015-17 with 10,927 participants over the age of 65, and funded by both the National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and National Institutes on Drug Abuse. Binge drinking was defined as having four or more drinks in one sitting, and all responses were self-reported.

While the population of Americans over 65 has ballooned since 2005 (from 36 million to 49 million), what’s alarming is that the rate of binge drinkers is on the rise: in 2005, only 8% of seniors identified as such.

Reasons for the increased rate were not given, though Quartz suggested that both social anxiety and loneliness — the latter is especially prevalent among older populations — could play a role. “Drinking can be a tool to deal with social anxiety,” Susan Messina, the deputy director of DC’s Iona Senior Services in Washington, told the publication.

As Quartz notes, with the increased population of adults over 65, that means five million older Americans binge drink, compared with three million in 2005. Men were more likely than women to binge drink, and also more likely to smoke (both cigarettes and cannabis). Researchers noted that binge drinking was higher among non-Hispanic African-Americans than whites, tobacco users, and people who visited an emergency department within the last year, which is admittedly a very odd way to group people together.

The good news? The binge drinkers had a slightly higher number of emergency-room visits, but were also less likely to have multiple chronic conditions, including high blood pressure or diabetes.

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