I heard an interesting report on the radio last week dealing with alcohol use in the baby boomer generation.  While underage drinking is often a focus of discussion for public health officials, law enforcement officials and healthcare providers, it appears that alcohol use in the middle age population is more common than previously believed.  See the New Hampshire Public Radio report here.

While alcohol use may be socially acceptable in certain situations, those of us approaching or beyond age 50 need to understand the risks of alcohol use and whether we are finding out from our patients what is really occurring at home and in public.  Prior studies looking at binge drinking in New Hampshire have shown that this occurs in approximately 13% of those aged 50 and older living in the Granite State, with it occurring more in men.

What leads to this change from “social drinking” to “unhealthy drinking” as patients enter middle age?  Is it due to social changes, such as loss of family or friends?  Is it due to physical or emotional pain issues, self-treated with alcohol?  Is it as simple as realizing that alcohol tolerance decreases as we get older, leading to more problems using the same routine when we were younger?  The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows us that older women are especially at risk for alcohol-related problems.

As treating doctors, we know that the number of baby boomer generation patients that we will be seeing in our offices and hospitals in the future will likely increase, so having a truthful discussion with those patients about alcohol use will be an important part of good medical care.  Assessing whether our patient is demonstrating low-risk, “healthy” alcohol consumption (no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 drinks per day for men) versus moderate or higher binge drinking will be part of our job to evaluate.  See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet on alcohol use and health here.

Regards,

Stuart J. Glassman, MD

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Comments

Lonesome George...nice touch. When he drank alone, he preferred to be by himself... In all seriousness, a very important issue.