Survey Finds Binge Drinking Among Older People, Too

Often unrecognized problem can escalate risks, experts say

MONDAY, Aug. 17, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Binge drinking isn't just a problem of young people, researchers say.

In a nationwide survey of people 50 to 64 years old, nearly a quarter of the men and nine percent of the women told Duke University researchers they had engaged in binge drinking in the previous 30 days.

Defined as five or more alcoholic drinks in a short time, binge drinking is considered extremely risky behavior, and its dangers increase with age.

The survey also found that 14 percent of men and three percent of women 65 and older reported binge drinking in the previous month.

The survey results were published online Aug. 17 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

"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," Dr. Dan G. Blazer of Duke, a study co-author, said in a news release. "Clinicians who work with this age group would be well advised to ask specifically about binge drinking."

The researchers examined data on the drinking habits of nearly 11,000 middle-age and older adults from the 2005 and 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

They found that older binge drinkers were more likely to use tobacco or illicit drugs than those reporting no alcohol use. Male binge drinkers tended to be unmarried and have higher income than non-drinkers. Women binge drinkers reported higher non-medical use of prescription drugs.

Binge drinking, also called extreme drinking, has gained notoriety in recent years as experts have decried the drinking habits of college students and young people. In one study, nearly 50 percent of college students reported consuming excessive alcohol in a short time.

Binge drinking at any age can lead to alcohol poisoning, liver disease, neurological damage, injuries and violent crimes.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more on alcohol abuse.

Peter West

Peter West

Updated on August 17, 2009

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