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Health Team

Survey: High-risk drinking up in women, older Americans

Posted January 3, 2018 2:49 p.m. EST
Updated January 3, 2018 6:23 p.m. EST

— More Americans report alcohol use, high-risk drinking behavior and alcoholism, according to an annual survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The rise in alcohol use nationwide is part of a trend that experts have seen over the course of the past two decades.

"Women have been more susceptible to engaging in more binge drinking, more high-risk drinking, and we're seeing higher rates of alcoholism in women in the U.S. as well," said Dr. David Streem, a psychiatrist with the Cleveland Clinic.

High-risk drinking is defined as five drinks in a day for men and four a day for women. Women absorb alcohol more readily from the stomach, which is why the level is lower for them than men.

For many women, what may seem to be a harmless daily glass of red wine can become an entryway to alcohol abuse, Streem said. High-risk drinking can affect a person's home and professional life, including his or her own safety and the safety of those around them, and could lead to other health problems, he said.

Many people are often unaware of when their drinking has become a problem, Streem said, recommending people try an online self-test to gauge their drinking habits and to seek substance abuse help, if needed.

The survey also showed older Americans now engage in high-risk behaviors more than ever before. As the country continues to age, Streem said, it's important to step back and evaluate how to maintain health in later years.

"We're going to have a lot of older folks, and we want them as healthy as they can be, and engaging in high-risk drinking, heavy drinking and alcoholic drinking throughout your adult life is not the way to have a healthy life as an older American," he said.