New study sheds light on excessive drinking among the elderly

Mar 05, 2008

One out of ten elderly adults on Medicare reports drinking more alcohol than is recommended, according to a new study from Brandeis University.

“Even though alcohol problems are more prevalent in younger people, a substantial proportion of older adults are consuming alcohol in amounts that exceed recommended guidelines,” said study co-author Elizabeth Merrick, senior scientist at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management. The study sheds light on a complex problem that has received scant attention and is often missed by health care and other providers, she said.

Published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the study evaluated data about 12,413 Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 or older. Merrick and her colleagues found that 9 percent engaged in unhealthy drinking—consuming more than thirty drinks per month, or drinking four or more drinks on any day in a typical month. The study, based on a 2003 Medicare survey, also reported that two-thirds of beneficiaries do not drink, while one-quarter drink within the recommended guidelines.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the American Geriatrics Society, risky drinking among those 65 years and older occurs when a person consumes more than seven drinks per week or more than three drinks on a single day. OOther guidelines suggest that the single-occasion drink limit should be no more than two drinks, and that women should drink even lower overall amounts than men.

Merrick said some older people may not be aware that recommended limits are lower than for younger people. Older adults are more sensitive to alcohol and less able to metabolize it, both of which contribute to adverse effects at any level of drinking. Alcohol can exacerbate some medical problems, reduce a person’s ability to function, increase the risk of falls, and negatively interact with medication.

“The relationship between alcohol consumption and risk is complex. Our study focused only on amounts of alcohol consumed. There are many people for whom lower amounts or even any amount of alcohol may constitute a serious risk because of specific medical problems or medication interactions,” explained Merrick. “All of these factors must be taken into account, along with the perhaps more highly publicized benefits of moderate drinking for some people.”

Source: Brandeis University

Explore further: Testosterone testing has increased in recent years

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Drunk driving women treated differently than men

Sep 15, 2014

A study by Victoria University of Wellington's Health Services Research Centre explores attitudes and behaviours surrounding women and drink-driving, and the extent to which they have changed over the past decade.

Mosquito fact and fiction

Sep 10, 2014

One of Jason Pitts' favorite stories is about mosquitoes and their strange attraction to Limburger cheese.

Recommended for you

Testosterone testing has increased in recent years

15 hours ago

(HealthDay)—There has been a recent increase in the rate of testosterone testing, with more testing seen in men with comorbidities associated with hypogonadism, according to research published online Nov. ...

AMA: Hospital staff should consider impact of CMS rule

Nov 21, 2014

(HealthDay)—Hospital medical staff members need to consider the impact of a final rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that revised the conditions of participation for hospitals ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.