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One in five people over 65 drinks too much

One in five people over 65 drinks too much

While excessive drinking is usually associated with teens and young adults, alcoholism is a growing health concern for all age groups, particularly among the elderly. A new study conducted by King’s College of London has uncovered that people over the age of 65 are at a heightened risk of unsafe drinking habits. This eye-opening new study has the potential to change the way we see and treat alcoholism.

Shifting alcoholism demographics

Researchers at King’s College found that one in five adults over the age of 65 is drinking excessively. The study examined the health records of 27,991 seniors living in the London borough of Lambeth and identified 9,248 people who reported that they drink regularly. Of those drinkers, 1,980 reported drinking at levels that are considered medically unsafe, which is more than 21 units of alcohol per week for men and more than 14 units for women. In studies such as these, a “unit” of alcohol is the amount traditionally found in a single serving of an alcoholic beverage. In effect, the study found that one in five senior men drink three alcoholic beverages a day, each day of the week. The top 5 percent of drinkers consumed in excess of seven beverages per day.

The study’s findings included a number of other enlightening details regarding who is drinking unsafely in the older population. For example, men drink more than women. While only 40 percent of the sample population was male, men represented 60 percent of the drinkers and 65 percent of the excessive drinkers. People of white racial background, particularly Irish, drank more than those of other origins. About 80 percent of the seniors noted as unsafe drinkers were white. People of wealthy backgrounds were also disproportionately unsafe in their drinking practices. All of this data revealed that white, wealthy men are the most vulnerable demographic in the elderly population to unsafe drinking habits.

The dangers of alcoholism among the elderly

Elderly people who consume too much alcohol may be continuing drinking habits they have carried for much of their lives, putting them at an increased risk of alcohol-related health conditions. Chronic drinking is particularly hard on the cardiovascular system and can lead to potentially serious problems such as hypertension, heart arrhythmias and alcoholic cardiomyopathy. Many of these conditions can elevate the risk of stroke and heart attacks.

Alcoholism also greatly increases the likelihood of injury. Loss of coordination while drinking can be particularly dangerous to the elderly, causing falls, drunk driving accidents and other mishaps. Overall, there are more than 88,000 deaths in America related to alcohol each year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Alcohol Deaths”).

If you or someone you know has developed a drinking problem, it is never too late to seek help. The Texas Substance Abuse Helpline can provide information about treatment opportunities and options. Call us to speak with a qualified addiction specialist.