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Increased alcohol use in older adults


As the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, it is expected that senior persons (aged 65 and over) will outnumber children in the United States for the first time in history by 2034. As the population ages, healthcare demand will grow, and increased rates of alcohol consumption among older individuals may add to the pressure currently placed on an already overburdened healthcare system.

The consumption of alcohol by older individuals has been increasing in recent years.

The use of alcohol among older people have increased in recent year, particularly among women. Between 2001 and 2013, an epidemiologic survey found that the rate of alcohol use disorder among persons 65 and older grew by 107 percent in the United States. According to the University of Michigan's 2021 National Poll on Healthy Aging, while the majority of older individuals polled used alcohol at low to moderate levels, a subgroup of older adults exceeded recommended alcohol consumption guidelines. Twenty percent of respondents used alcohol four or more times per week; twenty-seven percent had six or more drinks on at least one occasion in the previous year; and seven percent experienced alcohol-related blackouts.

Alcoholism's negative effect on elderly individuals

Consuming an excessive amount of alcohol can have detrimental physical and mental health consequences, including heart and liver difficulties, cognitive problems, mood disorders, an increased risk of cancer, and a weaker immune system. Additionally, older individuals who use alcohol have an increased risk due to age-related changes in the body. Because older individuals usually metabolize alcohol more slowly, they are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol. With less muscle to absorb alcohol, older people feel the effects of alcohol more rapidly than younger people, even with lesser alcohol intake. Women over the age of 50 are more likely to have these adverse effects than males over the age of 50. When combined with other physical changes associated with aging, older individuals who use alcohol are at an increased risk of falling, bone fractures, and other accidental injuries. Given the fact that many older individuals use several prescription drugs, another significant worry for this age group is the hazardous and often deadly consequences of medication-alcohol interactions. Alcoholism's adverse impact on elderly individuals.

Consuming an excessive amount of alcohol can have detrimental physical and mental health consequences, including heart and liver difficulties, cognitive problems, mood disorders, an increased risk of cancer, and a weaker immune system. Additionally, older individuals who use alcohol have an increased risk due to age-related changes in the body. Because older individuals usually metabolize alcohol more slowly, they are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol. Lean body mass also declines with age, and since there is less muscle to absorb alcohol, older people feel the impact of alcohol more rapidly, even when they consume less alcohol than younger people. Women over the age of 50 are more likely to have these adverse consequences than males over the age of 50. When combined with other physical changes associated with aging, older individuals who use alcohol are at an increased risk of falling, bone fractures, and other accidental injuries. Given the fact that many older individuals use several prescription drugs, another significant worry for this age group is the hazardous and often deadly consequences of medication-alcohol interactions.

Alcohol use among older individuals and the COVID-19 epidemic

According to emerging data, individuals in the United States and across the world are increasing their alcohol consumption in reaction to the COVID-19 epidemic. In general, research on older individuals' alcohol consumption during the pandemic's early stages has indicated that, as compared to younger adults, older adults report lower increases in alcohol usage. However, both a nationwide survey and a study of social media users discovered that older individuals who experienced sadness or anxiety during the pandemic were more likely to increase their alcohol use than those who did not.

Suggestions and resources for older people

If you use alcohol, adhere to the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends that men consume no more than two standard drinks per day and women consume no more than one standard drink per day. A normal drink contains 14 grams of alcohol, which is typically found in 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, or 1.5 oz. of spirits. These dietary suggestions are for people who are not taking any drugs that interact with alcohol or who are managing a medical or mental health condition that can be exacerbated by alcohol should abstain from alcohol altogether.

Consider abstaining from alcohol if you suffer from depression, anxiety, or any mental health issue, as alcohol can exacerbate these symptoms. Similarly, if you have sleep issues, you should avoid alcohol, as it might cause sleep disruption.

To understand more about your personal drinking habits, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's (NIAAA) Rethinking Drinking website.

To discover more about alcohol use disorder treatment choices, visit the NIAAA's Treatment Navigator website.

Avoid being socially isolated. If physical separation from friends and family is essential due to COVID-19 safety considerations, communicate with them through phone, video, or in outdoor settings.

Seek professional assistance if you are feeling overwhelmed by sadness, anxiety, or loneliness.

Additional information for healthy aging may be found on the website of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Disclaimer:

No content on this site, regardless of date, should be used to replace direct medical advice from your doctor or another trained practitioner.

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