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More than a Third of Seniors Are Drinking at High Risk Levels

Researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA say that more than a third of people over the age of 60 are either drinking too much, or drinking at levels that when combined with the medications they take, puts them at risk.

The researchers collected information on alcohol consumption, medications used and general health from more than 3300 adults over the age of 60 in Santa Barbara California.

Older adults were considered to be ‘at risk’ if they consumed more than 2 alcoholic drinks on most days, if they consumed 1 or 2 drinks on most days and had certain disorders, such as gout or hepatitis - or if they consumed 1 or 2 drinks and used certain medications, like anti-depressants.

The researchers found that:

  • 34.7% of the older adults surveyed fell into at least one of the at-risk categories, and 19.5% occupied more than 1 at-risk category.
  • Seniors who had not finished high school were two and a half times more likely to drink at an at-risk level. Seniors making more than $80 000 per year were one and a half times more likely to at-risk drink than seniors with incomes below $30 000.
  • Caucasian seniors were more than twice as likely as Asian seniors to drink in an at-risk category.

In their summary, the researcher wrote, “even among our relatively advantaged study patients, as many as one in three who continued to consume alcohol into older adulthood were at risk of harm from drinking.” They say that some doctors may be unaware of the risks of alcohol use amongst elderly patients, and that doctors need better information on the types of patients that are most at risk.

The research study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and is published in the online edition of Journal of General Internal Medicine.

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