Binge drinking catastrophic for older drinkers
Among older moderate drinkers, those who binge have a significantly greater mortality risk than their compatriots, new research shows.
Binge drinking is increasingly being recognised as a significant public health concern worldwide.
"In fact, the US Center for Disease Control recently concluded that binge drinking is a bigger problem than previously thought. This is the first study to focus explicitly on an older population in examining binge drinking...," said Charles J Holahan, professor of psychology at University of Texas at Austin.
Those who engage in binge drinking have more than two times higher odds of 20-year mortality in comparison to regular moderate drinkers.
Researchers used data from a larger project examining late-life patterns of alcohol consumption and drinking problems.
The baseline sample was comprised of 446 adults (334 men, 112 women) aged 55 to 65, 74 moderate drinkers who engaged in episodic heavy drinking and 372 regular moderate drinkers.
"We found that among older adults, those who engage in heavy episodic drinking -- even when average consumption is moderate -- show significantly increased total mortality risk compared to regular moderate drinkers," said Holahan.
Among older adults, drinking patterns need to be addressed along with overall consumption in order to understand alcohol's health effects, the study suggested.
Binge drinking concentrates alcohol's toxicity and is linked to mortality by damaging body organs and increasing accident risk.
It may be additionally risky for older adults due to aging-related elevations in health disorders and medication use.
The take-home message is that binge drinking is a significant public health problem that is frequent among middle-aged and older adults, concluded the study, to be published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
(Posted on 04-03-2014)