Baby boomers' binge-drinking epidemic: Study reveals surge in over-50s consuming excessive amounts of alcohol

  • NYU Langone analyzed drinking habits of older people between 2005 and 2014
  • They recorded a 19% increase in binge-drinking among over-50-year-olds
  • Researchers warn more time should be dedicated to drinking habits of this generation rather than simply focusing on teenagers and young adults 

Baby boomers are binge-drinking more and more, new research reveals. 

An analysis of federal data stretching from 2005 to 2014 shows a 19 percent increase in the number of over-50-year-olds drinking excessive amounts of alcohol in one sitting. 

And it is more common among women.

The research team behind the report at New York University warn few researchers focus on binge-drinking among older people, focusing instead on teenagers and young adults.  

But since age brings a whole catalog of health problems - from mobility issues to medication use - they insist more studies need to be done on baby boomers. 

More and more over-50s are drinking excessive amounts of alcohol in one sitting, data show

'Older adults have particular vulnerabilities to alcohol due to physiological changes during aging,' said Dr Benjamin Han, a geriatrician and health services researcher at NYU Langone Medical Center.

'However, no recent studies have estimated trends in alcohol use, including binge alcohol use and alcohol use disorders among older adults.'

To address the lack of research, Dr Han and his team examined data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (years 2005 to 2014) in a paper published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 

Trends of self-reported past-month binge alcohol use and alcohol use disorder were examined among adults age 50 and older. 

The researchers found significant increases in past-year alcohol use, past-month alcohol use, past-month binge drinking, and alcohol use disorders.  

Results also suggest that while men had a higher prevalence of binge alcohol use and alcohol use disorders than women, binge alcohol use and alcohol use disorder increased among women in this nationally representative sample.

'As females age, they tend to experience a larger impact of physiological changes in lean body mass compared to men,' commented Dr. Han. 

'Thus, they may experience the adverse effects associated with consuming alcohol even in lower amounts.'

'The increase in binge drinking among older women is particularly alarming' said Dr. Palamar, PhD, MPH, a CDUHR affiliated researcher and an assistant professor of Population Health at NYU Langone. 

'Both men and women are at risk for getting themselves into risky sexual situations while drinking, but women are at particularly high risk.' 

Dr. Palamar also stated that 'heavy drinking can not only have unintended health consequences, but it can also lead to socially embarrassing or regretful behavior.'

For the researchers, the results also raise public health concerns, given the significant increases in binge alcohol use among older adults who reported 'fair/poor' health and/or multiple chronic conditions. 

This population is particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of alcohol as it can impact chronic disease management or increase the risk of injury.

'Health care providers need to be made aware of this increasing trend of unhealthy alcohol use, particularly among older females, and ensure that screening for unhealthy alcohol use is part of regular medical care for this population' said Dr. Han.


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