Drinking Too Much Isn't Just for Kids, Gets Popular with Older People

Whether it's beer, wine or gin-and-tonics with a splash of lime, older adults are drinking a lot more alcohol than they did 20 years ago. In fact, people age 60 and up aren’t just consuming more alcohol than they did 20 years ago, they’re drinking it more often, too.

A recent study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research found binge drinking had increased by nearly four percent in men and women 60 and older between 1997 and 2014. The study, based on 145,000 responses to the National Health Interview Survey, said only 19.9 percent of older men consumed five or more drinks in a single day in 1997, but that had risen to 22.5 percent of men in 2014. As for older women, only 4.9 percent admitted to drinking five or more alcoholic beverages within a single day in 1997 compared to 7.5 percent in 2014.

The alcohol consumption increase was even bigger for older adults who considered themselves “current drinkers,” or consuming 12 or more drinks during any year of their lifetime and one or more adult beverages in the past year. Male "current drinkers" 60 and older rose from 54 percent 20 years ago to 59.9 percent in 2014 while women drinkers in that age group rose from 37.8 percent in 1997 to 47.5 percent in 2014.

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Study author Rosalind Breslow, an epidemiologist at the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told CNN Monday that the increase of drinking by older men and women has been a trend for the past two decades. Meanwhile, the gender gap for alcohol-consumption amounts was closing compared to 20 years ago.

In 1997, the margin between male and female alcohol consumption among those 60 and older only accounted for about 15 percent, but that margin closed to 12 percent in 2014.

The study authors suggested a push for more alcohol-abuse awareness among older people.

“Given the larger number of Americans we are going to have [as the population ages], that’s going to increase the need for more public health programming,” Breslaw said.

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