Alcohol Consumption in a Post-Pandemic World

Warmer weather has finally arrived, COVID-19 restrictions are lifting or easing in many regions, and it’s starting to look like the summer of 2021 will be cause for celebration and a return to a more normal vacation season.  But before uncorking the champagne, it may also be time to take stock of drinking habits that have developed over the past 14 months of quarantine. 

According to a recent CNN Opinion report, evidence suggests that alcohol consumption has been increasing more quickly of late among seniors, especially during the pandemic.  People of all ages have been turning to alcohol more often this past year to help cope with the stress, fear, and anxiety of a global pandemic.  Researchers have found that older adults who live in wealthier countries with low alcohol prices will continue to consume alcohol, even well into their 80s. 

Alcohol use, especially among seniors over the age of 65, can lead to a worsening of chronic health conditions and may interact with prescription medications.  Alcohol is processed differently by older adults and what seniors may have been able to tolerate when they were younger may now cause dizziness and other impairment that can result in injury.  Excessive alcohol use can also worsen mental health problems like depression or anxiety and lead to memory issues. 

As older adults look forward to a return to socializing in person with friends and family, it’s important to keep an eye on alcohol consumption.  In warmer weather, it’s easier to become dehydrated and alcohol can worsen the problem.  Hosts should offer plenty of cold non-alcoholic beverages to guests and model responsible drinking behaviors for friends and family of all ages. According to the latest U.S. dietary guidelines, adult men should consume no more than 2 drinks per day and women no more than one. 

If you or a loved one is concerned about problem drinking, you can take the Michigan Alcohol Screening Test (MAST) here.  MAST is one of the oldest alcohol screening tests, developed in 1971.  Talk with your healthcare provider for more information about alcohol consumption and aging.