September 17, 2017
Older adults are showing an upward trend in alcohol abuse and risk drinking compared to rates in 2001 and 2002.
In a recent study from JAMA Psychiatry , authors compared data from 2001-2002 and later data from 2012-2013. Both sets of data were originally collected from face-to-face interviews and were nationally representative of about 40,000 U.S. adults, each. The data sets were analyzed in November and December of 2016.
Though drinking had increased in every age group observed, the trend for older Americans (ages 65 and over) had the most severe shift upward.
Though older Americans were less likely in general to drink than their younger counterparts, the oldest group still had the biggest increase in drinking rate, with a 22 percent increase between the two sets of data.
Older Americans also saw the greatest shift toward alcohol abuse or "high-risk drinking," which researchers defined as having at least four or five drinks in a day at least once a week, depending on gender.
“I am especially concerned about the 106% increase of AUDs [alchol use disorder] for older individuals because they are likely to carry multiple preexisting medical disorders that can be exacerbated by heavier drinking,” wrote Dr. Marc A. Schuckit in an essay corresponding with the report.
“These older drinkers are also likely to be taking multiple medications that can interact adversely with alcohol, with resulting significant and costly health consequences.”
Dr. Bridget Grant, an epidemiologist at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism who led the study, told the New York Times that the growth in this alcohol abuse may already be showing its consequences as cardiovascular disease and stroke rates, which had been on the decline, are now leveling off; alcohol-related falls and subsequent trips to the ER, meanwhile, are on the rise.
“The growth in that population portends problems down the road,” Grant told the Times.
To read more about the study at JAMA.