One in ten Brazilians over 60 years old makes abusive use of alcoholic beverages, indicates a study conducted by Unifesp (Federal University of São Paulo). According to the researchers, about 2 million elderly (6.7%) consume several doses in a single occasion – pattern of abusive consumption, known as binge drinking. About 1.16 million, 3.8%, drink 7 to 14 drinks a week, an amount that can put their health at risk. In total, one in four elderly people (23.7%) admits to occasionally consume alcohol.
To reach these numbers, researchers from the Escola Paulista de Medicina (Unifesp) analyzed data from a study with 5,432 Brazilians over 60 years of age. And they also used information from 503 elderly people cared for in Basic Health Units in São José dos Campos. The work, which became a doctoral thesis by researcher Tassiane Cristine de Paula, is unprecedented in the country and reveals that alcohol consumption among the elderly is already a public health problem.
Excessive drinking among the elderly is not exclusive to Brazilians. At age 95 and close to her 70th reign, Queen Elizabeth II was advised by UK doctors to stop taking her daily drinks. Sources close to the British royal family told Vanity Fair magazine about the case.
The Brazilian study indicated that elderly men drink more than women, although they are more vulnerable to the effects of drinking. It also showed that frequency and quantity decrease with age – risk consumption is higher among men aged 60 to 70 years, especially those with more education (over nine years of schooling). After the age of 70, consumption drops, especially among women. The phenomenon is more common in the Southeast Region.
Yes, another day too
Carlos Alberto Dias, owner of a fishing tourism company in Sorocaba, 68, takes one to two glasses of wine “every other day”, as he says. It is a 20-year routine, initiated by the influence of a woman, of Spanish origin, who loves the drink. “Before I drank beer. Now, a bottle of wine lasts three days after it’s opened, as we take care that the drink doesn’t oxidize,” he said. Charles believes that age should not prevent the cultivation of a “nice” habit that he does not consider harmful. “If the queen’s drinks are taken away [referência à monarca britânica], she will die”, he compared.
The businessman says that he only goes to the doctor for periodic exams. “I don’t have high blood pressure or hypertension and I stay away from pharmacies. I do physical activity regularly. I have medical clients, and they advise against spirits, not wine,” he said. His wife, Maria Josefa, 65 years old, accompanies him in the well served glasses. “We are a couple who drink together”, he jokes.
The pair is on the threshold of high-risk consumption, as the study considers less than one drink a day for women and less than two drinks for men to be low risk. Consuming more than one daily dose for women (or 7 a week) and two for men (14 a week) is now considered high risk. Ingesting more than four doses, for women, and five, for men, in two hours characterizes abusive consumption.
how to reduce
According to researcher Tassiane, it is essential to understand this problem to propose strategies aimed at reducing consumption among the elderly, in order to prevent it from becoming a more serious public health problem. “This is a worrying fact, because, with the increase in life expectancy, the proportion of elderly people in the population is greater.”
Studies indicate, according to Tassiane, that harmful alcohol consumption by adults and the elderly may be related not only to serious health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer and dementia. “It also increases the risk of falls and accidents with fractures”, warns the scientist, who was advised by Professor Cleusa Ferri. Funded by FAPESP, the research was recently published in international journals.
As part of the study, the researcher and her group interviewed 503 elderly people assisted by UBSs in São José dos Campos. Of these, 242 were identified as alcohol consumers and 80 were followed in their home routine. This work, started in January 2020, was interrupted in March by the pandemic. “After three months, we found that half had reduced consumption and 25% stopped drinking. Of course there may be a pandemic effect, as many elderly people could not even buy drinks and family parties stopped happening. But the result encourages us to continue this work as soon as possible.”
The researcher’s expectation is to develop, for the public health system, an intervention protocol in relation to the elderly who drink. According to the NGO Center for Information on Health and Alcohol (Cisa), data on alcohol consumption by the elderly are still scarce and underestimated in the country, but it is already known that 1% to 3% have physical and psychiatric morbidity related to its use. of alcoholic beverages. Among the consequences of alcohol consumption by this population are deficits in cognitive and intellectual functioning, damage to social behavior and increased comorbidities.
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