New research suggests that older problem drinkers’ habits differ from their younger counterparts, as well as from older non-problem drinkers.
New research from Ohio State University suggests that older problem drinkers, whose drinking is classified as either alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence, drink significantly more and more often than their younger counterparts.
Researchers say that the findings suggest that these older problem drinkers may have developed a tolerance to alcohol requiring them to drink more to achieve the desired effects.
Using data collected in the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, a national survey of more than 43,000 Americans in 2000-01 under the direction of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), researchers suggest that certain groups of older Americans, those who fall in so-called problem drinking categories, increase their alcohol intake as they age. This counters previous research that showed that as Americans age, their intake of alcohol tends to decrease.
Problematic drinking was defined as falling into one of two categories: alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.
Alcohol Abuse was defined as presenting mostly social-related problems related to alcohol use, including legal issues and engaging in physically hazardous activities like impaired driving.
Alcohol Dependence was defined as presenting physiological problems related to alcohol use, including increased drinking and continued use even after physical or psychological problems become apparent.
Overall, adults over the age of 60 years are less likely to fall in the alcohol abuse or dependence categories. However, those who did tended to have higher drinking levels than younger problem drinkers.
The new research found that adults over the age of 60 years with alcohol dependence problems drink an average of more than 40 alcoholic beverages per week. Young counterparts, on the other hand, average 25 to 35 alcoholic drinks a week.
These older adults also show an increase in the number of monthly binge drinking episodes compared to their younger counterparts. Those over 60 years of age with alcohol dependence averaged 19 binge episodes a month, versus an average of 13 to 15 episodes a month by younger alcohol dependence groups.
Overall, binge drinking was greater among all adults in the alcohol problem categories. Researchers suggest that binge drinking may in fact be a better indicator of alcohol addiction that simply the total amount of weekly alcoholic drinks.