Binge drinking is a phenomenon most often seen among college students and younger adults. It is usually classified as having 5 or more drinks in a single setting for men, and 4 or more drinks for women. It is extremely dangerous as it increases the chances of alcohol poisoning and risky decision making, which can have a very wide array of consequences, including death.
Now a new study suggests that older women are increasingly participating in binge drinking behavior and are now at a greater risk of developing a dependence on alcohol and suffering from alcohol-related disorders.
Researchers at the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) looked at data collected between 1997 and 2014. They found that men consumed alcohol at much the same rate throughout these seven years. However, the amount of alcohol consumed by women increased roughly 4% each year. They also found that older women were more likely to increase their alcohol consumption.
This is especially troubling because of the health risks associated with excessive alcohol use among women. “We know that, overall, women are more sensitive to the negative health consequences of alcohol than men. These consequences include liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and cognitive impairment – serious problems – and addiction to alcohol is possible as well,” commented Dr. J.C. Garbutt, medical director of the University of North Carolina Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program.
While there isn’t a reason that has been given for this increased consumption by older women, it uncovers a hole in alcoholism prevention that shows additional populations that need to be reached. There should be no end to the help for substance abusers, from prevention and intervention to treatment and aftercare support. This study shows that we cannot assume that it is only younger people who have binge drinking problems.