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New research shows that one in 10 of them over 65 engages in college-style drinking behaviors.
Binge drinking is often portrayed as a college thing. But this risky form of imbibing actually declined among U.S. university students from 2005 to 2014. It is now most prevalent among people from 25 to 34 and is increasing among people over 50. And new research finds that 10.6% of seniors 65 and older are binge drinkers — though the actual total is almost surely higher.
“Binge drinking is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is linked to everything from car crashes and burns to homicide and suicide, along with stroke, heart disease, and cancer. Especially among the elderly, it also increases the risk of falls.
The new study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society,involves self-reported data on the drinking patterns of 10,927 U.S. adults 65 and older. Researchers used a common definition of the minimum threshold for binge drinking: four drinks for a woman or five for a man in a single two-hour window in the past month.
While the new figure for seniors is higher than previous estimates of 7.7% to 9%, it’s not entirely clear if binge drinking among the 65-plus set is on the rise, or if the increase is a result of differing data and methods, explains study leader Benjamin Han, an assistant professor in the department of medicine at NYU Langone Health.
Other research, however, points to an increase.
A separate 2017 study by Han and colleagues found that binge drinking rose 19.2% between 2006 and 2014 among people 50 and over. And a 2017 study led by Bridget Grant at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, using different survey data, determined that high-risk drinking rose 65.2% among people 65 and over from 2001 to 2013. High-risk drinking was defined as weekly consumption (rather than in the past 30 days) of four drinks for women, or five for men, in a given day (instead of in a two-hour period).