Alcohol consumption can lead to serious health risks for the elderly

Jan 20, 2020
The effects of alcohol can be felt more easily among the elderly. Source: Getty

Having a glass or two of wine at night may seem harmless but research has shown it comes with great risks for the elderly who are more prone to the effects of alcohol.

As you age, the way your body handles alcohol can change and your regular drink could go from having no effect whatsoever, to the cause of a visit to the emergency room. Some older people can feel ‘high’ from just one drink, when previously it would take three or four glasses of alcohol to make an impact.

The likeliness of having a fall and injuring yourself increases, while in the worst-case scenario, excessive drinking can lead to life-threatening health conditions. A recent study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found alcohol-related deaths have increased by more than 100 per cent in the past two decades.

Shockingly, the overall death rates were more than four times higher among middle-aged and elderly adults than those in their 20s and 30s. And there was a larger amount of alcohol-related emergency room visits among those aged over 65, with the main cause being injuries caused by falls.

In the elderly, a fall can be especially harmful, sometimes resulting in hip or arm fractures. As we age, our bones become thinner, meaning they break easier upon impact. And with alcohol impairing one’s judgement more so in the elderly, the likeliness of a fall occurring is increased.

According to a study published in the Australian Family Physicianup to 30 per cent of falls in older adults can result in moderate to severe injuries, such as lacerations, hip fractures and head trauma. This can all lead to an increased risk of early death.

Meanwhile, a fall can also cause anxiety in the elderly. They may become socially isolated or stop taking part in daily activities for fear they will fall again and obtain a serious injury.

Those who continue to drink excessive amounts of alcohol for long periods risk affecting their vital organs such as their liver and heart. According to the National Institute of Ageing, drinking too much alcohol over a long time can lead to cancer, liver damage, immune system disorders and even brain damage.

It can also worsen conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, ulcers, memory loss and mood disorders.

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