Bad news for the Baby Boomers. As they cross the 65+ milestone, more and more Boomers are bringing a high rate of alcohol problems with them. Here are nine reasons why drinking is a growing problem for the Boomers.

How Alcohol Affects Boomers Differently

Due to metabolic changes and other physical changes, boomers don’t process alcohol as efficiently as they did in their 20s -50s. Additionally, adults in this particular phase in life face many unique stressors and pressures. A study conducted by Cornell University found the nine most common are:

  1. Forced Retirement. Many seniors are being forced out of work due to health issues, the company disbanding, or struggling to keep up with the work load and/or technological advances. Because this isn’t the retiree’s choice, they are stressed emotionally and financially. This is a leading contributor of problem drinking.
  2. Lack Of Life Purpose. For many, their life purpose revolved around  work and careers. It’s hard to replace that drive and fulfillment in retirement. Instead of turning to alcohol for comfort, seniors can helping with the grandkids,volunteer, or find a new hobby.
  3. Boredom. Many retirees struggle with boredom, and those who suffer physically are at a higher risk of drinking to help while away the time.
  4. Health Issues. Health problems may cause more stress and inactivity.
  5. Depression, Anxiety, and Other Mental Health Issues. Past mental health issues may become more problematic due to less structure in their lives. Unfortunately, many psychiatric medicines have dangerous interactions with alcohol. The alcohol may either render the medication useless or cause overdosing.
  6. Family and Marital Stress. Often retirement exacerbates family problems as both partners are home all day.  If one is single, then lack of companionship may be a struggle.
  7. Financial Struggles. Retirement often brings less income and unexpected bills such as a catastrophic, long-term illness.
  8. Fewer Healthy Social Activities. Because of various issues such as health, the retiree may not be as involved socially as much as needed. Likewise, their adult children have their own activities and may not be as involved with their retired parents.
  9. Greater Problematic Social Activities. Retirement may be a time of leisurely drinking with friends. In fact, many retirement communities revolve around social activities that include drinking.

The Problem Grows Worse

Approximately 2.5 million older adults struggle with alcohol abuse, and another 3 million mid-lifers (55 and older) have a problem with alcohol use. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that America’s 65+ population will be the fastest growing age group over the next 25 years. Coupled with a increased life-span of 80+, this age group could soon be our most affected generation.

While all of these conditions may lead to drinking, no one condition or even all conditions ‘cause’ alcoholism. However, Baby Boomers need to monitor these factors and reach out to their spouse, family, friends or others for accountability if necessary.

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Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience in the fields of mental health, addictions, and co-occurring disorders. Her other specialties include grief and trauma, women’s issues, chronic pain management, holistic healing, GLBTQ concerns, and spirituality and transpersonal psychology. Dr. Anderson has been educated and trained in the fields of education, social work, and spirituality, and she holds a Doctor of Ministry degree (non-denominational/interfaith) specializing in spirituality.

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