Increased Alcoholism among Baby Boomers

Baby boomers are all nearing the age of retirement if they haven’t already and studies have shown this generation may have an increased chance of alcoholism, especially among women.

Increased age, increase alcohol use

Photo by: Katina Rogers

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism stated in a 2008 study ”about 40 percent of adults ages 65 and older drink alcohol.” Multiple studies conducted since that study in both in the U.S. and the UK have shown a dramatic increase of drinking among older adults than in previous years. Additionally, the amount of alcohol consumed by older adults is also increasing; in many case adults over 65 are drinking more than double the recommended weekly limit.

Older women at higher risk

While there have always been a higher amount of men who drink heavily compared to women, the rate of binge drinking among older women is increasing more rapidly than that of older males. Some theorize women over 65 may be increasing their heavy drinking due to it being more socially acceptable, to handle pain that comes with age, or even to fill the time of a life that may be slowing down with other activities.

Health risks

Photo by: Jeffrey Fairchild

Older women who drink heavily are at an increased risk of severe health problems related to alcohol abuse. According to the NIH, Those who are heavy drinkers could increase health problems such as “diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, liver problems, osteoporosis, memory problems, and mood disorders.” They also note that “women typically start to have alcohol-related problems at lower drinking levels than men”. Additionally, many medications that those 65 and older take regularly can have dangerous reactions when mixed with alcohol.

Legal ramifications

Beyond the wide range of health risks, both men and women over the age of 65 should be aware of the legal risks that can be associated with binge drinking.

• As reaction time and memory recall decreases with age, alcohol can magnify this effect. The combination of age and alcohol could increase the chance of individuals putting others in harm whether through trying to operate a vehicle or other heavy machinery or by increasing the chance of accidental home fires that could result in injury or death. The NIH stated “Aging can lower the body’s tolerance for alcohol. Older adults generally experience the effects of alcohol more quickly than when they were younger. This puts older adults at higher risks for falls, car crashes, and other unintentional injuries that may result from drinking.

• Alcohol has been shown to be a factor in many aggravated criminal cases such as homicides, assaults, and sexual crimes. Alcohol does not discriminate in regards to age. Those who have a tendency to show increased agitation when they are drunk at 40 may also face the same reaction when they are over 65. Age is never an excuse for violent behavior.

• In a little over a year, Utah will be decreasing the BAC limit for drivers. Most drivers, especially women who typically weigh less than men, will not be able to drive legally after even one drink. All drivers should consider planning ahead for a designated driver whenever alcohol is to be consumed.

Set limits

The NIH recommends those who are over 65, healthy, and not on medication (or planning on driving) should limit their amounts of alcohol to no more than “3 drinks on a given day” and “7 drinks in a week”. Although alcohol is legal for all adults over the age of 21, it may be wise to recognize problems of binge drinking and take precautions to curb excess drinking before health or legal consequences ensue. For any adult regardless of age that is facing criminal charges stemming from an alcohol related offense, it is best to consult immediately with a criminal defense attorney.