Drinking — and binge drinking — growing more common among older women

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A new study from researchers at the National Institutes of Health indicates that the rate of drinking in general, and binge drinking in particular, is rising faster among women ages 60 or older than among their male contemporaries. When the researchers analyzed data from National Health Interview Surveys from 1997 through 2014, they found that the proportion of older women drinkers increased at a rate of 1.6% a year, compared with 0.7% for older men. Binge drinking — defined as imbibing four or more drinks within two hours — increased by 3.7% annually among older women, but held steady among older men. The results were reported online March 24, 2017, by Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The researchers speculated that baby boomers, who tended to drink more than earlier generations did in youth, have continued their habits as they've aged. Whatever the reason, the trend doesn't bode well for older women's health. Because of biological differences, at any level of alcohol consumption, women have a higher blood alcohol concentration than men, putting them at greater risk of cognitive impairment and falls. It's a good idea to limit alcohol consumption to seven drinks a week, with no more than three drinks at a sitting.