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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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Older People Are Binge Drinkers, Too

Researchers Say Alcohol Use Expected to Increase Among Aging Baby Boomers and Older People
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 17, 2009 -- Older people as well as aging baby boomers may be turning to booze and binge drinking, a new study shows.

The study raises significant concerns, researchers say, because doctors often overlook drinking habits, which can be harmful to individual health and public safety.

Duke University scientists, who analyzed data of nearly 11,000 middle-aged and elderly adults from the 2005 and 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, report in the American Journal of Psychiatry that:

  • 14% of men and 3% of women 65 or older admit to binge drinking -- defined as quaffing five or more alcoholic beverages on a single occasion within the past 30 days.
  • Among 50-64-year-olds, 23% of men and 9% of women admitted to binge drinking
  • Bingeing and at-risk alcohol use was more common among people 50 to 64 than those in the older group.
  • Among males, binge drinking was associated with higher income, being separated, divorced, or widowed while being unemployed.
  • Among women, non-medical use of prescription drugs was associated with bingeing.
  • Bingeing also was associated among all those studied with the use of tobacco and illicit drugs.
  • Men in both groups are more likely than women to binge drink.

The researchers also point out that previous work has shown that binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to drive while impaired than people who don't binge drink.

Alcohol use and problem drinking are expected to increase among middle-aged and older people in coming years, the researchers say.

"We feel that our findings are important to the public health of middle-aged and elderly persons as they point to a potentially unrecognized problem that often 'flies beneath' the typical screen for alcohol problems in psychiatry practices," Dan G. Blazer, MD, PhD, of Duke University, says in a news release. "Clinicians who work with this age group would be well advised to ask specifically about binge drinking."

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