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Binge Drinking Is Harmful To Older Drinkers

Update Date: Mar 05, 2014 09:34 AM EST
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Among older moderate drinkers, who binge drink have a remarkably greater mortality risk than regular moderate drinkers, a new study has found. 

The study has examined the potential health benefits of moderate drinking. It also focuses on the average levels of drinking rather than drinking patterns. 

Specifically, the study noted that those who engaged in binge drinking have more than two times higher odds of 20-year mortality compared to regular moderate drinkers. 

"Binge drinking is increasingly being recognized as a significant public health concern," said Charles J. Holahan, a professor of psychology at The University of Texas at Austin as well as corresponding author for the study, in the press release. "In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently concluded that binge drinking is 'a bigger problem than previously thought.' Ours is one of the first studies to focus explicitly on an older population in examining binge drinking among, on average, moderate drinkers."

"Some of the greater attention to binge drinking is due to increases in binge drinking since the mid-1990s, but perhaps more because of growing recognition of the importance of patterns: it's not just how much you drink but how you drink," added Timothy Naimi, a physician and alcohol researcher at Boston Medical Center at Boston University in the press release. "All told, excessive alcohol use causes about 80,000 deaths annually in the US, and many of these deaths are among youth and young and working-age adults."

Researchers considered the baseline sample consisting of 446 adults aged 55 to 65. They also considered 372 regular moderate drinkers and 74 moderate drinkers who engaged in episodic heavy drinking.

"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," added Holahan in the press release. "These findings demonstrate that, among older adults, drinking patterns need to be addressed along with overall consumption in order to understand alcohol's health effects."

Results will be published in the May 2014 online-only issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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