Alcohol consumption among older adults has been rising in recent years, particularly among women. According to one epidemiologic survey, the rate of alcohol use disorder increased 107 percent among people 65 and older in the United States between 2001 and 2013.
According to the University of Michigan’s 2021 National Poll on Healthy Aging, while the majority of older adults surveyed consumed alcohol at low to moderate levels, a subset of older adults exceeded the recommended guidelines for alcohol consumption.
In particular, 20% of respondents reported drinking alcohol four or more times per week; 27% reported having six or more drinks on at least one occasion in the previous year, and 7% reported alcohol-related blackouts.
Too much alcohol consumption can have negative physical and mental health consequences, such as heart and liver problems, memory problems, mood disorders, an increased risk of cancer, and a weakened immune system.
Furthermore, age-related changes in the body put older adults who drink alcohol at an increased risk. Because alcohol is metabolised more slowly in older adults, they are more sensitive to its effects. Lean body mass also declines with age, and because there is less muscle to absorb alcohol, older adults feel the effects of alcohol more quickly, even if they consume less alcohol than younger people. When compared to older men, older women are more vulnerable to these effects.
When combined with other physical changes in the body caused by ageing, older adults who drink alcohol are more likely to fall, break a bone, or sustain other unintentional injuries. Given that many older adults take multiple prescription medications, the dangerous and sometimes fatal side effect of mixing medications with alcohol is an important concern for this age group.
According to emerging evidence, people in the United States and around the world are drinking more alcohol in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In general, research on older adults’ alcohol use during the early stages of the pandemic has found that, when compared to younger adults, older adults report smaller increases in alcohol use.
However, a national survey study and a study of social media users both found that older adults who experienced depression or anxiety during the pandemic were more likely to increase their alcohol consumption than those who did not.
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