Binge Drinking Increased Among Older Men, Not Older Women, from 2015 to 2019

Family enjoying the weekend in their home
The divide in binge drinking between men and women is getting smaller, however, little is known about sex-specific differences. Researchers examined the trends and correlates of binge drinking among older Americans.

Binge drinking has increased among older men, but not older women, according to new research from Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers analyzed data of 18,794 US adults aged at least 65 years who participated in the 2015-2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The survey samples a different cross-section of participants each year.

The survey asked patients if they drank alcohol or engaged in binge drinking in the last month, utilizing the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s definition of binge drinking: a man consuming at least 5 alcoholic beverages on the same occasion or a woman consuming at least 4 alcoholic beverages on the same occasion. Participants provided demographic information and their medical history.

The researchers found that the prevalence of past-month binge drinking increased from 12.8% (95% CI 10.8-15.1) in 2015 to 15.7% (95% CI 13.9-17.6) in 2019 without a significant change for women. In the overall period, on average, 14.2% of older men drank and 7.8% of older women drank.

Men who engaged in binge drinking were less likely to have at least a college education (31.5% vs 38.2%). They were less likely to be married (68.3% vs 72.4%), and they tended to have a lower prevalence of heart disease (29.0% vs 34.4%), diabetes (13.2% vs 21.1%), COPD (7.9% vs 10.5%), kidney disease (2.6% vs 5.3%), or 2 or more chronic diseases (24.7% vs 34.4%).

Women who had engaged in binge drinking in the past month were more likely to have used tobacco (16.1% vs 8.0%) or cannabis (4.7% vs 1.2%) in the past month.

Women with a high school diploma (adjusted prevalence rate [aPR] 1.74), some college (aPR 1.86), or a college degree (aPR 1.68) were more likely to have engaged in binge drinking in the past month. Men with a college degree were less likely to have engaged in binge drinking in the past month (aPR 0.69).

Men with a family income between $50,000 and $74,999 or at least $75,000 (aPR 1.33 for both, 95% CI 1.03-1.71, 95% CI 1.01-1.74 respectively) were more likely to have engaged in binge drinking compared with men with a family income of less than $20,000. Men who were divorced or separated were more likely to have engaged in binge drinking compared with married men (aPR 1.25 95% CI 1.05-1.50).

Men with diabetes were less likely to have engaged in binge drinking (aPR 0.76). Men were less likely to have engaged in binge drinking if they had kidney disease (aPR 0.54) and were more likely to have engaged in binge drinking if they had hypertension (aPR 1.25) or had used tobacco (aPR 1.87) or cannabis (aPR 2.05) in the past month.

Women who used tobacco (aPR 2.11) or cannabis (aPR 2.77) in the past month were more likely to have engaged in binge drinking in the past month. Women with diabetes were less likely to have engaged in binge drinking (aPR 0.73).

Limitations include a social desirability bias and exclusion of institutionalized populations.

The researchers said doctors should consider the differences in correlates of binge drinking among the genders when designing interventions and management strategies to reduce excess alcohol use.

Disclosure: Some [or one] study author(s) declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures. 

Reference

Al-Rousan T, Moore AA, Han BH, Ko R, Palamar JJ. Trends in binge drinking prevalence among older U.S. men and women, 2015 to 2019. J Am Geriatrics Society. Published online December 8, 2021. doi: 10.1111/jgs.17573