A peg too many impairs thinking among elderly

March 6th, 2009 - 12:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 6 (IANS) Elderly people who have a peg too many might be slower on the uptake than they think, according to a new study.
Although people 50 or older in the study metabolised alcohol at a rate similar to how younger people did, they performed worse on special tests after imbibing moderate amounts of alcohol and did not always realise when they were impaired.

Soon after having alcohol, older adults also took on average five seconds longer to complete a test than their counterparts who did not have a drink.

“That doesn’t sound like much, but five seconds is a big difference if you’re in a car and need to apply the brakes,” said study co-author Sara Jo Nixon, psychiatry professor at University of Florida (UF) McKnight Brain Institute. “It can mean the difference between a wreck, and not-a-wreck.”

In 2007, an estimated 12,998 people were killed in the US in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“We still have a tremendous overhead in the United States of terrible tragedy with drinking and driving,” said Edith Vioni Sullivan, also a psychiatry and behavioural sciences professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

“We usually hear about the deaths; we seldom hear about the serious accidents that put people into nursing homes and hospitals for the rest of their lives.”

More than half of adults older than 55 drink socially, according to a 2008 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. But few studies have focussed on the short-term effects of social drinking among older adults.

The study involved 68 nonsmokers - one group aged 50 to 74 and a comparison group aged 25 to 35 - who had at least one drink a month, said a UF release.

The study was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

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