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When Older Americans Drink Too Much

Alcohol consumption declines as people age, yet too many older Americans still drink more than would be good for their health, according to new research published in the American Journal of Public Health. Following 1,300 subjects for 10 years, the study found that while alcohol consumption waned with age, more than a third of subjects still exceeded guidelines for “moderation” (one drink for women, two for men).

This statistic masks the seriousness of the problem, as the ability to effectively metabolize alcohol diminishes as we get older, making yesterday’s “moderation” tomorrow’s “excess.” Study author Rudolf Moos, Ph.D., says “With age, it takes less alcohol to cause problems.” For example, lingering alcohol in the blood can interfere with medication. Other dangers include increased chance of falls and fractures.

For such reasons, researchers advise older adults to limit themselves to one drink per day, regardless of gender. Says Moos, “two drinks are OK on some occasions when there are other people around for safety.”

Published May 23, 2005

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