Healthy Old People at Higher Risk of Drinking Problems
Older adults who have “successfully aged,” may be more prone to developing harmful drinking habits, says a recent study in BMJ Open. "Successful agers" are defined as adults who are healthy, active both physically and socially, and also wealthy.
For this study, the researchers focused on what forces might cause harmful drinking in older adults. The study included 9,251 men and women, all 50 or older, as part of the 2008-09 and 2010-11 English Longitudinal Study of Aging. Researchers tracked factors that may influence heavy drinking, such as marital status, care responsibilities, education, smoking, social engagement, employment and physical activity and diet.
For both men and women, research suggested that good health, smoking and higher education were related to an increased risk of dangerous drinking habits. In women, those with a higher income were also found to be at higher risk, compared to those with lower incomes. Loneliness and younger age were also shown to be high factors for risk. For men, those who lived alone and who were lonely had an increased risk, including men who were divorced or separated. Other risk factors included care responsibilities, older age and lower income.
However, a man’s risk was shown to peak during his early 60’s before showing a drop. For women, the risk of harmful drinking reduced more gradually with age. Care responsibilities was also shown to decrease risk in women. The researchers called the harmful drinking habits in older adults, a hidden “middle class phenomenon” in an group often associated with success.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 16.6 million American adults have a drinking disorder and about 40 percent of adults over 65 still consume alcohol.