Excessive Drinking Among Older Americans Studied

Study advises clinicians to screen their older patients for signs of binge drinking

TUESDAY, Aug. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Two-thirds of men and more than half of women over 50 years old drink alcohol, and at-risk and binge drinking are prevalent in the age group, according to a study published online Aug. 17 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Dan G. Blazer, M.D., of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and colleagues analyzed data for 10,953 respondents 50 years and older. The researchers assessed levels of alcohol use, at-risk drinking, psychological problems, and health status. At-risk was classified as two or more drinks on a usual drinking day in the past 30 days, and binge drinking as five or more drinks on one occasion on at least one day in the past 30 days.

The researchers report that 66 percent of men and 55 percent of women said they used alcohol within the past year. Among those 65 years and older, 13 percent of men and 8 percent of women reported at-risk alcohol use, and 14 percent of men and 3 percent of women reported binge drinking. Among men, binge drinking was associated with higher income or being separated, divorced or widowed. Among women, it was associated with being employed, non-medical use of prescription drugs, being African-American, and less education. For all respondents, binge drinking was associated with the use of tobacco and illegal drugs.

"At-risk and binge drinking are frequently reported by middle-aged and elderly adults nationwide and are therefore of public health concern. Clinicians working with middle-aged and older adults should screen for binge drinking and coexisting use of other substances," the authors write.

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Jeff Muise

Jeff Muise

Published on August 18, 2009

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