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Older Adults May Show Dangerous Five-Second or More Delay After Consuming Alcohol

Posted in Research

A recent report is shedding light on a subject associated with alcohol consumption that’s not as often the spotlight of studies – the effects of alcohol on older adults, rather than teens and college students.

While many studies are delving into the devastating effects of high school and college binge drinking, a recent study from the University of Kentucky says that adults older than 50 may have a lower tolerance for the effects of alcohol than previously believed. Specifically, behavioral change seemed to occur quicker and with less alcohol for older adults than for younger ones.

What the findings mean, say researchers, is that new information is needed to encourage older adults to be especially cautious when consuming alcohol and attempting to perform activities like driving. Simply asking someone in the 50-plus demographic if they’re OK to drive after an alcoholic beverage isn’t enough, as the behavioral impairments seem to occur with lesser amounts of alcohol than most adults realize.

During the study, researchers looked at the ways alcohol or a placebo impacted a group of adults in the 50-74 age group, then compared those results with people from the 25-35 age group. After consuming alcohol to reach a set blood alcohol level, participants were studied as they performed tests like connecting dots in a short timeframe. Their abilities to plan tasks, to maintain motor coordination and perform a series of activities were tested.

The participants in the older age group showed as much as a five-second delay in responses, as compared to the younger group, which further emphasizes the caution necessary even when consuming small levels of alcohol. Even more significant, suggest researchers, is the reality that many older adults don’t know their level of impairment after even a moderate amount of alcohol.

They also stress that younger drinkers still suffer the same types of impairments and physical and cognitive changes as older drivers that make behaviors like drinking and driving highly dangerous and deadly.