Successful aging people are at greater risk of harmful drinking: Study

According to a new study published in the online journal BMJ Open, 50 plus individuals who are healthy, highly educated, sociable and active are at greater risk of harmful drinking compared to their less successful peers.

During the study, researchers observed over 9,000 people and concluded that drinking habit among people above 50 years of age is a “hidden middle-class phenomenon”. According to the researchers, this issue must be addressed using clear, age-specific drinking guidelines.

Prof. Jose Iparraguirre, the chief economist of Age UK and the author of the study, have written that the findings of this new study are suggesting that people who engage in harmful drinking during the later part of their life are usually affluent. This indicates that harmful drinking might be a hidden social and health issue among otherwise successful aging people.

Prof. Iparraguirre added that based on the findings of this study, he and his colleagues are recommending that clear guidelines about alcohol drinking patterns and levels must be incorporated into the successful aging paradigm.

The study was carried out based on the responses to Elsa or English Longitudinal Study of Aging. This study collects data from representative samples of both men and women above 50 years of age; the data used in this study was collected during 2008-2009 and 2010-2011.

Prof. Iparraguirre and his team found that higher educational attainment and better health had connections with higher risk of harmful drinking. According to Prof. Iparraguirre, as this group (he educated and affluent) is usually healthier than other segments of the aging population, people belonging to the group often fail to understand that excessive drinking can be dangerous for them.

Another significant fact put forward by the study is that income also has connections with higher risk of heavy drinking. However, this link was observed only in women. On the other hand, in men, heavy drinking was found to have an association with being divorced, separated or single. Surprisingly, being lonely or depressed has not been linked with increased risk of practicing harmful drinking.

After analyzing the responses of the representatives, researchers found that in men the risk of harmful drinking peaks when they are in the early 60s, after which it tails off gradually. In women, risky drinking tends to fade as they grow older.