Binge drinking now more common among older men across the U.S., study finds

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Experts say older women aren’t using alcohol in the same way

Recent studies have found that many consumers have increased their alcohol intake over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows that older consumers have adopted potentially dangerous drinking habits during the same time period. 

According to their findings, binge drinking has increased among older men over the last few years. However, older women’s drinking has stayed consistent over time. 

“Our study brings the most up-to-date findings on trends in binge drinking in older age, especially the unnoticed importance of understanding the unique demographic characteristics of binge drinking that differ in men and women given gender norms and expectations of societies that are consistently evolving,” said researcher Dr. Tala Al-Rousan. 

Tracking older consumers’ drinking habits

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from nearly 19,000 adults over the age of 65 enrolled in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2015 and 2019. Participants answered questions about how much they were drinking and how often they were drinking within the previous month. 

The researchers learned that there was a spike in binge drinking among older men in recent years. When the study began in 2015, under 13% of men were binge drinking; by 2019, that number jumped to nearly 16%. For the purposes of this study, binge drinking was defined for men as having five or more drinks at once, and for women as having four or more drinks. 

The study also suggests that different factors may contribute to the likelihood of women and men engaging in binge drinking. Across the board, using tobacco or cannabis was associated with greater alcohol use. Marital status solely impacted men’s binge drinking, whereas educational accomplishments impacted women’s drinking habits. 

“We noted an increased frequency in education among binge drinking older women,” Al-Rousan said. “Women with more education may have more opportunities to drink and may be less constricted by gender norms against women consuming alcohol.” 

Moving forward, the researchers hope these findings inspire health care professionals to discuss the potential risks associated with heavy alcohol use with their older patients. 

“Our findings would encourage health providers who care for older men and women with chronic conditions who are at risk of binge drinking to offer tailored messages that are targeted at certain chronic conditions,” Al-Rousan stated. 

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