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Alcohol Abuse Is Often Worse When It Occurs In Seniors

November 23, 2009
Researchers at Ohio State University have found that adults over age 60 who have alcohol dependence drink more than 40 alcoholic drinks a week on average, compared to between 25 and 35 drinks a week on average for those in younger age groups with similar problems. In addition, older people with alcohol dependence have more binge drinking episodes per month than do their younger counterparts. "A combination of high levels of drinking and the physiological effects of aging are particularly problematic for older adults," said Linda Ginzer, co-author of the study and a doctoral student in social work at Ohio State. The findings were presented last week at a meeting of the Gerontological Society of America. Other research has shown that Americans generally tend to drink less alcohol as they age, but these findings suggest that for certain groups of older adults – those with alcohol problems - alcohol use actually increases, Ginzer said. Older problem drinkers drank more each week than did others. In addition, older people in the dependence category had significantly more alcohol binges each month than did younger people in the same category. Binges were defined as men having five or more drinks in a day, or women having four or more drinks in a day. "More often than not, we think of binge drinking as occurring among college students or those in their 20s," said researcher Virginia Richardson, professor of social work at Ohio State. "But the fact is, binge drinking occurs among older people as well, and it is in fact worse among those who have problems with alcohol. It is something that clinicians and researchers need to consider."