June 23, 2022 – When we think of drinkingyou probably imagine young students overdoing it at the big weekend parties: drums, shots, loud music and bad behaviour. And indeed, according to one national surveymore than half of students (53%) reported having consumed alcohol in the previous month, and about 33% binge-drinked.
But, despite the dangerous drinking habits of college students, it’s actually the over-30 crowd that does it most often.
New to research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that most binge drinking occurs in adults 30 and older, with a recent slight increase in the 50-and-over crowd. Although binge drinking is never a healthy practice, its harmful effects increase with age.
For the purposes of the study, the researchers defined binge drinking as more than five drinks on one occasion. It is difficult to determine the number of people over the age of 30 who indulge in heavy drinking, as it often occurs in people who drink at what is called a moderate average level – defined as an average of no more than one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men.
Study co-author Charles Holahan, PhD, of the University of Texas, says his team started researching the topic because they realized drinking habits were often overlooked. .
“This leaves many drinkers to mistakenly assume that a moderate average level of alcohol consumption is safe regardless of the mode of consumption,” he says. “A secondary, but important concern is that research on heavy drinking tends to focus on teenagers and college students. Yet most heavy drinking occurs in adults over the age of 30.
The nuances can be a little confusing, but Holahan says the study helps focus on the fact that moderate average drinking can include heavy drinking.
“For example, an average moderate drinker of one drink a day might reach that average by a daily drink with dinner, or a more risky seven-drink regimen on Saturday nights,” he says.
Brooke Scheller, a doctor of clinical nutrition and board-certified nutritionist, says these binge drinkers 30 and older often started their habits at a young age. “They may have started bingeing at 15 or 16,” she says, “and carried that behavior through college and beyond. They often have their brains programmed to look for excessive drinking in adulthood.
This seems especially more common among millennials, she says.
“This is a generation that’s been through a lot of stressors,” Scheller said. “They lived through the recession of 2008, the pandemic, and are somewhat burnt. At the same time, they’ve broken a lot of stigma in the career world, and the traditional family lifestyle isn’t necessarily their thing. As a result, women consumed more alcohol than men.
Your body over 30 in bulimia
In your twenties, the bad effects of bulimia spread through your body quite quickly – your body is more resilient. Unfortunately, for men and women who drink alcohol well into adulthood, the health effects can be significant. “At that age, their liver might not be working as well as they could due to their history of bulimia,” Scheller says. “They may also have a history of poor diet.”
Results can include decreased brain volume, leading to changes in memory, concentration, thinking skills, and even impact on the gastrointestinal system.
“The gut is the center of the body,” Scheller explains, “and excessive alcohol consumption over time leads to persistent inflammation.”
When you drink, your body tends to “pause” systems other than those needed to get rid of the alcohol, because it is a toxic substance. “It can impact the whole body in different ways,” says Scheller. “If you have health issues of any kind, they will be exacerbated in the short and long term.”
Holahan says binge drinking differs from more moderate drinking because of the higher concentration of blood alcohol it produces.
“It can lead to health and social problems,” he says, including an increased risk of injury, as well as emotional or psychological problems from alcohol. Over time, it will also take more alcohol to achieve the same effects.
At the same time, says Holahan, most heavy drinkers aren’t alcoholics. But they are more likely to have health or social problems than their more moderate drinking peers.
Although binge drinking differs from alcoholism, it can be difficult to identify that you have a problem.
“Fenzy is often acceptable in social situations, friendships, and work settings,” says Scheller. “But it’s good to ask yourself if alcohol serves your goals in life. If not, think about whether you need to make changes.
Consider whether alcohol affects your work or your Mental Health in a negative way. Also notice if one drink tends to lead to the next and if you have trouble stopping the party.
“Alcohol creates a dopamine reaction and makes us want more,” Scheller says. “If you keep gorging, you can train your body to behave like that.”
The good news is that today there is a growing “sober curious” movement that makes it more socially acceptable to refuse drinks. Bars are offering creative mocktails more often, and non-alcoholic beers, wines and the like have come a long way in the past decade.
“A lot of people now recognize that alcohol might not be good for them, so they’re considering living without it,” Scheller says. “Understanding how this might negatively impact your life can be powerful and help you make a change.”