The results of a research study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society have found that approximately 1 in 10 older adults partakes in binge drinking. This behavior put them at higher risk for injuries from falls as well as other medical problems.

Joseph Palamar, the senior author of the study and an associate professor in New York University’s (NYU) Department of Population Health, explained that much of the focus of risky drinking is on young people. He went on to point out that these results serve as reminders that it’s important to keep an eye on older adults as well.

Alcohol Consumption Data from Older Adults Analyzed for Study

To perform the research study, Palamar and his colleagues analyzed data from 10,927 people aged 65 and older. All of them had participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in the years 2015-2017.

About 10.6 percent of the study participants reported they had participated in binge drinking within the past 30 days, according to the researchers. Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks at one sitting for men and four or more drinks for women.

Older Adults More Sensitive to Alcohol

Dr. Benjamin Han, lead study author and an assistant professor at NYU Langone Health’s Depart of Medicine’s Division of Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care, points out that many adults don’t realize that the body becomes “more sensitive to alcohol” as they get older. Someone may think they can still drink the same way as when they were a young adult, but the risks associated with this behavior increase over time.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that adults over age 65 who are in good health (and aren’t living with a chronic disease) limit their alcohol consumption to no more than three drinks per day. The National Council on Aging points out that the vast majority of older adults (80 percent) have at least one chronic condition, such as diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure.

Binge Drinking Risky for Adults with Chronic Diseases

When older adults who are taking medications to treat their chronic conditions add alcohol into the mix, it may lead to health risks the patient may not have anticipated. For example, someone who is living with diabetes may not realize that binge drinking can make his blood sugar increase. This can create problems.

A common problem for binge drinkers is that they forget to take their medications. If an older patient is on several medications it can often be challenging to remember to take them as directed, especially if they must be taken at different times of the day. When alcohol use is added into the mix, the likelihood of doses being late or skipped altogether increases.