Binge drinking is up among older men, but not older women, according to a new study. Photo by kaicho20/Pixabay
Dec. 8 (UPI) — Binge drinking was on the rise among older men before the COVID-19 pandemic started, a study published Wednesday by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found.
However, fewer older women are engaging in the behavior, which is defined as consuming five or more drinks on the same occasion for men and four or more drinks for women, the researchers said.
Among men age 65 years and older, 16% reported binge drinking in 2019, up from 13% in 2015, the data showed.
However, among women in this age group, 7% said the binged on alcohol in 2019, down from just under 8% in 2015, according to the researchers.
While the data runs up through 2019, it reveals that binge drinking already on the rise in the United States ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic — which researchers have found led many in the country to increase their alcohol intake.
“Our study brings the most up-to-date findings on trends in binge drinking in older age,” study co-author Dr. Tala Al-Rousan said in a press release.
In particular, the findings highlight “the unnoticed importance of understanding the unique demographic characteristics of binge drinking that differ in men and women,” said Al-Rousan, an assistant professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego.
This is important, “given gender norms and expectations of societies … are consistently evolving,” she said.
A study published last year found that binge drinking was on the decline among all age groups in the United States, though that study covered the period between 2011 and 2017.
More recently, research has indicated that alcohol consumption and binge drinking has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to stress and social isolation.
For this study, Al-Rousan and her colleagues focused on older adults drinking habits between 2015 and 2019, or the five-year period immediately before the pandemic.
The data is based on nearly 19,000 responses from adults age 65 and older to the 2015-2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an analysis health behaviors led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Having a college degree was associated with a 68% higher risk for binge drinking among women in this age group, but a 31% lower risk for men, the data showed.
Conversely, men who were separated or divorced had a 31% higher risk for binge drinking, but women in this category did not.
Both men and women who reported use of tobacco or cannabis in the past month had an 87% higher risks for binge drinking.
“We noted an increased frequency in education among binge drinking older women,” Al-Rousan said.
“Women with more education may have more opportunities to drink and may be less constricted by gender norms against women consuming alcohol,” she said.