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After a few drinks, older adults more impaired than they think
Date:3/5/2009

GAINESVILLE, Fla. Older, active people who have a drink or two might be more impaired afterward than they think, according to a report today from a University of Florida research group in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Although people 50 or older in the study metabolized alcohol similar to how younger people did, they performed worse on special tests after having moderate amounts of alcohol and did not always realize 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 lead author Sara Jo Nixon, Ph.D., a psychiatry professor at UF's 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 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, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences 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 focused on the short-term effects of social drinking among older adults. Previous research mainly investigated consumption of large amounts of alcohol at one time, and generally in young people. But results from studies of younger adults might not be applicable to older people because of age-related declines in cognitive skills,
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Contact: Czerne M. Reid
czerne@ufl.edu
352-273-5814
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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