Youngsters aren’t the only ones who have an affinity for consuming a lot of alcohol in a short amount of time – in other words, harmful drinking. It turns out, the parents and grandparents of millennials know how to binge drink, too.
Adults over age 50 who are healthy, active, sociable and well-off are more at risk for harmful drinking than their peers, according to a study published in the BMJ on Thursday.
A higher income and a higher education level means someone’s more likely to drink too much, the study found. People on the young end of the above-50 age group are also more likely to be risky drinkers. Loneliness and depression are not associated. Men who didn’t eat healthily and women who are retired were also at higher risk.
The team analyzed data from the English Longitudinal Survey of Aging from 2010 to 2011, which looked at roughly 9,000 adults 50 years or older living independently. It asked how much spirits, wine and beer people drank every week. Participants were also asked to provide information on their income, educational level, self-reported health, marital status and other factors.
The researchers then compared the survey data with British drinking guidelines. They recommend that people drink no more than 21 units of alcohol per week for men and 14 units for women. A unit is 10 milliliters of pure alcohol, which translates to a shot of hard liquor, about half of a beer or half a glass of wine.
Healthy, wealthy and fit people over 50 were more likely to engage in harmful drinking — 50 shots of hard liquor for men or 35 for women in a week.
Maybe the vibrant pub culture across the pond is to blame for these drinking problems?
But data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s not so different stateside.
“It’s not just young people. The [binge drinking] problem is across the lifespan,” Bob Brewer, head of the Alcohol Program at the CDC, tells Shots.
The CDC defines binge drinking as consuming five or more drinks in two hours. A standard drink in the U.S. means a can of beer (American cans are smaller in volume), a standard glass of wine, and a shot of hard liquor.
Binge drinking is most common among 18- to 24-year-olds, and they drink the most, averaging 9.3 drinks on a single occasion.
But people over age 65 stood out when it came to how often they drank too much, reporting binge drinking five to six times a month.
Binge drinking was common among those with an annual family income of $75,000 or more and some college education, according to a 2014 paper by the CDC. That echoes the British study. People with higher incomes tend to drink more, but also tend to moderate their drinking, according to a study published earlier this year.
There was a lot more variation in how much people drank if they had lower incomes, with some drinking heavily and others drinking not at all, the researchers found.
“Our data supports the notion that people drink well into the senior years,” says Brewer, “and as a society we haven’t done much to address it.”