A growing number of seniors are taking part in binge drinking. It’s no longer a passing stereotype for binge drinking to occur at frat parties. But does these rising numbers raise a red flag for serious concern?
What are the Numbers?
Seniors are binge drinking more than ever with 10% reported just in the last month, the highest it’s been in the past decade. Binge drinking is considered as having four drinks in one sitting if you’re a women and five drinks if you’re a man.
The total number of adults over 65 in the U.S. has ballooned, jumping from 36.6 million in 2005 to 49.2 million in 2016 that are binge drinking.
What are the Negative Effects of Binge Drinking?
A pattern of binge drinking can have dramatic effects on one’s health. Once in awhile isn’t a big deal, but a common occurrence can become a problem. The negative effects of alcohol are taxing on the liver, the main organ that breaks down alcohol in the bloodstream.
Alcohol consumption can also contribute to the following health problems in seniors:
- Certain forms of cancer, brain and liver damage, and immune disorders.
- Worsening of high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, stomach ulcers, mood disorders, and memory problems.
- Increased risk of stroke.
- Changes in the blood vessels and heart that may obscure the warning signs of a heart attack.
The Health Costs of Binge Drinking
The health care costs of the aging population are growing. This trend can affect overall medical outcomes. Binge drinkers typically have more visits to the doctor and higher rates of visiting the emergency room. It also increases their likelihood for developing multiple chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
The Social Impact of Binge Drinking
Social factors could be playing a role in seniors drinking, such as using it as a way to cope with their social anxiety. Also, a feeling of isolation could lead some seniors to drink more.
It could be that seniors who are binge drinking may be doing so because they’ve got a smaller social group. Alternatively, poor drinking habits throughout life could have also isolated seniors in their earlier years, leading them to feel lonely now, while they continue to drink the same amount they had before.
Drinking can be enjoyable, but it’s also a risk for everyone—especially in larger quantities. Even though they’re not the typical binge-drinking demographic, seniors deserve to have their doctors consider all their habits in order to get the best care.
How to Limit Drinking
The elderly, often with more times on their hand and less supervision, are among a high risk for alcohol abuse and addiction which remains largely unnoticed.
Therefore it is difficult to quantify the drinking patterns in the elderly with adverse health effects in their age group and apply a specific limit to all seniors. It is advisable that seniors exhibit moderation as far as possible looking at a daily intake not exceeding levels as low as 1 unit per day for women and 1.5 units per day for men. If possible, alcohol should be avoided altogether by patients on chronic medication and with chronic diseases.
What should I do if I suspect my loved one has excessive alcohol consumption?
The CDC notes that alcohol consumption affects individual seniors differently, due to a variety of factors such as age, sex, general health status, and even family history. However, if you believe that alcohol consumption may be adversely affecting the health of someone you love, the CDC recommends that you contact a doctor or other trusted health care provider to request an assessment.