By On August 12th, 2009

20% of males over 50 binge drinking?

According to findings recently reported online in the American Journal of Psychiatry, binge drinking is not just a problem that is prevalent among college students; binge drinking is also an issue that is commonly seen in older patients. According to Dan G. Blazer, MD, PhD, and Li-Tzy Wu, ScD, of Duke University, approximately 20% of men and 6% of women over the age of 50 reported binge drinking within the last year. Aside from binge drinking, the study found that overall 66% of men and 55% of women used alcohol in the last year, according to self-reports. “The potential adverse consequences of at-risk and binge drinking among middle-aged and elderly individuals may often be overlooked by clinicians,” the researchers said. The data for the study came from the 2005 and 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which was composed of information from 10,953 patients ages 50 and over.

I believe that these findings are significant in that they give a reality check to primary care physicians who believe that binge drinking is isolated to young adults. In many cases, the effects of binge drinking are quite evident; however, we cannot assume that there will be external signs in older adults that binge drink. With these findings in mind, it may be prudent to, formally or informally, screen older adults for frequency of alcohol use in primary care settings. Click here to read an article from USA Today that reviews the study more.

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