Alcohol and Aging: Does Alcohol Use Make You Look Older?

By: Tim Mcintosh

Projections in Europe and the USA are that the number of people over the age of 65 requiring treatment for substance misuse will have doubled or tripled over the period 2001–20 [4, 5]. It may not be as easy to recognize, but alcoholism in older adults is common. If you believe that you or a loved one has problems with alcohol, you can contact your family doctor and they can perform a substance abuse screening. As you get older, alcohol starts to affect you more than usual.

Or perhaps a diagnosis of dementia, cancer, or a similar condition has robbed you of your sense of independence. Treatment options such as residential facilities, individual or group therapy, and peer support groups can be helpful in dealing does alcohol make you look older with an addiction. After drinking too much, you might feel guilty about your lack of self-control. You might also regret things that you said or did while intoxicated. You might find yourself wanting a drink even at inappropriate times.

Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

Kelly et al.’s restrained conclusion that alcohol interventions in older people may be effective is to be welcomed. This should be interpreted positively but trial methodology needs to be strengthened and extended. For instance, concerns has been raised by McCambridge and Saitz [18] about the reasons for the low uptake of brief interventions in primary care, a point also raised by Kelly et al. [11]. Fortunately, there are those older people who are drinking in a risky or hazardous fashion and for whom brief interventions are effective.

alcohol and aging

You might have a few drinks in hopes of forgetting your troubles. However, later you notice that drinking has increased your sense of hopelessness and anxiety. If you’re trying to numb unpleasant feelings or relieve stress, drinking often only pushes your stressful obligations back a day or two, ultimately making them even more time-sensitive and stressful. Age of onset of alcohol problems has been posited as a consideration in treatment outcomes. Specifically, some researchers have hypothesized that people who experience alcohol problems later in life are more likely to have better outcomes than those whose alcohol problems start earlier.

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The concept that methylation reflects activity of the cell’s epigenetic maintenance system had gained traction. An epigenetic clock is a multivariate age estimator based on methylation measurements such as those from arrays from the Mammalian Methylation Consortium. The clock draws on public datasets of the millions of methylated sites in the human genome.

Traditionally, investigating this has been challenging due to the lack of reliable methods to measure biological aging. In addition, it was not clear from observational studies whether alcohol was the true cause of any effect, or if it was linked to other factors, such as socio-economic status. Over the last 5 years, addiction services in the UK have been reduced and the situation can be described as precarious at best and dire at worst. There have been reductions in training posts and consultant numbers.

Tips and resources for older adults

Just try to avoid groups or events that might entice you to drink. You may even want to try out a peer support group, such as AA, where you can find social support from sober people who understand your struggles. According to the research team, a potential biological mechanism to explain alcohol’s influence on telomere length is increased oxidative stress and inflammation. The process which breaks down ethanol in the body can both produce reactive oxidative species that damage DNA and reduce levels of antioxidant compounds that protect against oxidative stress.

  • If another lab studies liver, muscle and skin as his does, when that team picks different ways to measure aging, “how do we compare that?
  • This includes 32% whose most recent drink was in the last 24 hours, and 37% who most recently had one within the last two to seven days.
  • In addition to brief interventions, specialist outpatient treatment and inpatient treatment have been evaluated.
  • You might feel frustrated by their alcohol abuse or distressed about the potential long-term consequences.
  • The late-onset group was significantly more likely to complete treatment.

As you get older, you have less muscle mass and your liver isn’t as strong. This causes the effects of alcohol to be stronger, even if you’re drinking the same amount you always have. Across all three grade levels, the shares who said they had drunk alcohol in the 30 days prior to the survey and who reported binge drinking – having five or more drinks in a row during the last two weeks – also declined between 2001 and 2023. Overall, 62% of U.S. adults say they ever drink alcohol, while 38% abstain completely, according to a July 2023 Gallup survey.

There are very few services in the UK that are designated for older substance misusers. It has been estimated that only 7% of older people who need treatment for alcohol problems access them [23, 24]. If patients who present with physical or psychiatric problems related to alcohol are not identified and treated appropriately, the potential for good outcomes will be jeopardised.

alcohol and aging


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