Group of seniors at a barbecue binge drinking


Sure, college kids and young adults are known to drink to excess – at least on occasion. But did you know that one in 10 seniors also binge drinks? (Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks in a sitting for men and four or more drinks for women.) And the number of seniors who admit to binge drinking regularly or sporadically has been on the rise over the past decade.

Some blame this increase on how baby boomers, who have all but taken over the senior generation, are bigger drinkers than the generation before them. Others speculate this surge in drinking could be related to the increasing number of seniors who are choosing to live independently (and often alone), and the inherent potential for isolation.

Whatever the reason, heavy drinking takes a much greater toll on an older body than a younger one. Here’s how:

  1. Impacts balance. As you age, your tolerance for alcohol decreases, and you’ll feel the effects more quickly. This “buzz,” or feeling of inebriation, can exacerbate balance issues, which can, in turn, lead to falls that have greater consequences than when you were younger and your body more resilient.
  2. Impairs driving. Drinking can also affect your driving skills more significantly nowadays. Having even one drink was found to affect seniors’ ability to course correct, stay in their lane and maintain their driving speed.
  3. Affects your health. Imbibing can exacerbate health conditions, such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes, memory loss, and mood disorders. It’s also been associated with a higher risk of stroke and even some types of cancer.
  4. Impedes diagnoses. When you drink, it can cause changes in your body that make it difficult for doctors to diagnose and treat some medical conditions.
  5. Interacts with drugs. Drinking can interfere and interact with the effectiveness of many medications. That’s why it’s so important to read the labels before pouring that drink.

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