Binge Drinking and Baby Boomers
Why are Older Americans Drinking So Much Alcohol?
Imagine a binge drinker. What age are they? Like many, you might imagine a teenager or a college-aged person. But the reality is, baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, are drinking more than ever. While alcohol abuse is still an issue for young people, it turns out young people are drinking less than they ever have. Some attribute this to a decline in smoking, thought to be a gateway to alcohol, as well as a rise in other forms of social engagement like social media.
A recent study by researchers at New York University’s School of Medicine and the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research analyzed data from over 10,000 American adults, over the age of 65, who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2015 and 2017. They looked at the frequency of binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks on one occasion for men, and four or more on one occasion for women. The study showed one in 10 adults in the 65+ demographic had engaged in binge drinking in the past month.
Age and the health effects of binge drinking
Binge drinking – even occasionally — can exacerbate existing ailments, negatively interact with medications, and complicate general health management. For example, some of the most common health issues faced by baby boomers are hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes – all linked to alcohol consumption. Excessive drinking in the United States contributes to over 80,000 deaths, and costs $249 billion, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Binge drinking contributes to roughly half of those deaths and about three-quarters of the economic costs.
So why are baby boomers engaging in binge drinking, and other forms of alcohol abuse, at an increasing rate? The reasons are manifold. Those that research alcohol use disorders, an all-encompassing term for mild to severe alcohol abuse, have known for a while that baby boomers drink more alcohol than their parent’s generation, sometimes known as the silent generation.
In addition, people are living – and staying social – longer than ever before. Since 70 is the 50, alcohol plays a role as a social lubricant for the baby boomer generation – and this is true even for those living in assisted care communities. As the lifestyles of older generations change in other ways, post-retirement responsibility lessens, and they can become more withdrawn, lonely, and bored. This too can lead to alcohol addiction.
Alcohol rehab for older adults
Treatment for alcohol abuse is less common for older individuals, simply because they don’t fit the stereotype of someone suffering from an alcohol use disorder – again, typically thought to be a younger individual. But with changing metabolisms in older individuals, it’s more important than ever to watch alcohol intake – about 15 drinks a week for men, and 10 for women.
The good news is that older adults respond very well to alcohol treatment. If you, or a loved one, are a member of the baby boomer generation and you’re concerned about an issue with alcohol abuse, it’s not too late for a second chance.