COLUMBUS, Ohio Older adults who have alcohol dependence problems drink significantly more than do younger adults who have similar problems, a new study has found.
The findings suggest that older problem drinkers may have developed a tolerance for alcohol and need to drink even more than younger abusers to achieve the effects they seek.
Researchers at Ohio State University found that adults over age 60 who have alcohol dependence drink more than 40 alcoholic drinks a week on average, compared to between 25 and 35 drinks a week on average for those in younger age groups with similar problems.
In addition, older people with alcohol dependence have more binge drinking episodes per month than do their younger counterparts.
"A combination of high levels of drinking and the physiological effects of aging are particularly problematic for older adults," said Linda Ginzer, co-author of the study and a doctoral student in social work at Ohio State.
Ginzer, who conducted the research as part of her dissertation, did the study with Virginia Richardson, professor of social work at Ohio State.
They presented their results November 20 in Atlanta at a meeting of the Gerontological Society of America.
The researchers used data collected in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. This was a national survey of more than 43,000 people collected in 2000-01 under the direction of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Research has shown that Americans generally tend to drink less alcohol as they age. But these findings suggest that for certain groups of older adults those with alcohol problems - alcohol use actually increases, Ginzer said.
For this study, the researchers used the survey results to classify heavy drinkers by age categories.
Two categories were of particular interest to the researchers. Those in the alcohol abuse category were tho
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Ohio State University