Alcohol Abuse and Senior Citizens

Alcohol Abuse and Senior CitizensThe United States has a rapidly increasing population of senior citizens as the baby boomers age. With the aging of this population, it is important to look at the health concerns of senior citizens. It is well acknowledged that aging adults may face a wide variety of physical health problems, from osteoporosis to incontinence. However, it is the mental health needs of this age group that needs increased attention. Senior citizens are often faced with mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and substance and alcohol abuse. Such disorders can occur from a combination of physical and environmental factors that are encountered as a person ages.

Physical Factors of Senior Citizen Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol ingestion has a stronger impact and leads to intoxication at a quicker rate in an aging or elderly individual. This is largely due to the declining volume of water held in the body. Because of this, consumed alcohol has a higher concentration in the bloodstream, leading to stronger effects on an older person’s physical and mental states. Greater intoxication also occurs when an older individual’s liver cannot metabolize alcohol as readily. Alcohol abuse can lead to further damage of the liver, making the problem progressively worse.

How Life Events of Senior Citizens Contribute to Alcohol Abuse

Many factors associated with aging may play into the increased occurrence of alcoholism in aging adults. Retirement, for example, is a huge lifestyle change that may come as a shock to some senior citizens. Boredom and loneliness are two large concerns of those who have retired and are staying at home. Retirees may become overwhelmed with the vast amount of free time that accompanies retirement, and they may turn to drinking as a means to fill some of that excess time. The loneliness of being home for greater periods of time may also trigger alcohol use for some retirees. After a lifetime of work, people become used to the daily social interaction that occurs in an occupational setting. If social interaction ceases following retirement, loneliness and depression can occur. Unfortunately, some retirees self-medicate their loneliness and depression by abusing alcohol.

Grief and bereavement are other concerns that face senior citizens. As individuals age, they may experience the death of spouses, parents, siblings, friends, and sometimes even children. The bereavement process is difficult to cope with, and leads many people to abuse alcohol. A 2012 study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that the risk of alcohol related problems among bereaved men tends to be higher than for men who were not bereaved, particularly in the two years following the loved one’s death. The depression and loneliness that occurs with the loss of a loved one are considerable factors in the alcohol consumption patterns of aging adults.

Get Help for Alcohol Addiction

If you or someone you know suffers from an addiction to alcohol, it is important to seek appropriate treatment. Therefore, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about treatment for alcohol addiction.