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Alcohol use increased by pandemic among Americans over 50


By Robert Preidt
Health Day reporter

THURSDAY, June 10, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Alcohol use has increased among older Americans at the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it could put their health at risk, say researchers behind a new poll.

“As we all clink glasses at the end of the worst part of the pandemic in our country, it is important to treat or prevent problematic drinking of all kinds,” said one of the pollsters, Anne Fernandez, psychologist at the University of Michigan specializing in the study of alcohol. use.

More than 2,000 adults aged 50 to 80 were surveyed in late January, as rates of COVID-19 cases were high nationwide and vaccination of the elderly had just started.

About 14% of those polled who drink alcohol said their alcohol consumption increased in the first 10 months of the pandemic.

But the rate was much higher among the minority who reported drinking as part of their routine, to improve mood or to relax, or to cope with boredom, stress or pain, according to the national poll. from the University on Healthy Aging.

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One-third to one-half of these adults said they drank more in the past year. Those who reported feeling isolated or lonely were also more likely to report an increase in alcohol consumption.

Half of those surveyed said they drank primarily for social reasons, and they were more likely to say their alcohol use had decreased in 2020. This suggests that as socialization increases with mitigation of pandemic, their alcohol consumption may increase, the survey authors said.

Overall, 23% of respondents who drink alcohol said they regularly drank three or more drinks at one time, and 10% said they used other drugs while drinking, including marijuana or prescription drugs that can have harmful interactions with alcohol.

Consuming three or more drinks of alcohol a day on a regular basis and occasional binge drinking are both considered signs of problematic drinking in any adult, the researchers noted.

“Even before the pandemic, heavier and riskier drinking habits were increasing among older people at a faster rate than among young adults,” Fernandez said in a college press release.

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“Not all seniors who have drunk more in the past year may have gone from safe to risky drinking, but the overall level of drinking and the potential for interaction with other substances are of great concern, ”she said.

The body’s ability to process alcohol changes with age, said survey director Dr. Preeti Malani, an infectious disease physician at Michigan Medicine who also trained in geriatrics.

The same amount of alcohol that older people consumed in the past can affect them differently now, causing balance problems that can lead to falls and other injuries. In addition, long-term alcohol consumption can accelerate age-related immune system decline and memory loss.

“We are particularly concerned when older people drink more than one drink at a time, so the 20% of older men who reported drinking three to four drinks on a typical drinking day are of concern,” said Malani said.

“And 27% of those who drink said that at least once in the past year they had had six or more drinks – which is a level of” binge drinking “that is risky at all. age, but more so with age, ”added Malani.

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More information

The US National Institute on Aging has more information on aging and alcohol.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, press release, June 9, 2021

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