Drinking in Younger Years Could Be Disastrous for Later Life
Young adults that are drinking too much alcohol are at risk of ‘serious health problems’ decades into the future, even long after they may have stopped boozing, according to a new study. Researchers analysed 664 U.S. male veterans from the Vietnam era, discovering that those who reported symptoms of alcohol dependence in their young adult years suffered with worse mental and physical health by the time they had reached their 60s compared against the ones who didn’t have alcohol dependence. In total, 368 were assessed who did not report alcohol dependence symptoms, 221 who reported at least 3 symptoms of dependence in young adulthood, and 75 that had symptoms prior to the age of 30. The chronic drinkers were significantly more at risk from a number of health problems, and were actually found to be twice as likely to suffer with depression – something long closely tied with alcohol abuse. It was also found that those participants who had reported alcohol dependence symptoms for at least 5 years during early adulthood were in poorer physical and mental health during their 60s. Worryingly, symptoms were there in the veterans that had stopped their drinking problem by reaching the age of 30, meaning there are ‘silent but permanent’ problems that result from alcohol. Lead researcher Randy Haber, of the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System in California, said those who drank too much at a young age had silent but "permanent" health problems later in life. “It's clear that people's lives improve when alcohol dependence goes into remission," Dr Haber said. “But it is not clear whether there are hidden consequences that remain after heavy drinking has ceased.” Dr Haber added that there is evidence demonstrating the brain and body are negatively impacted by heavy drinking, but he is unsure exactly how long these impacts last for. Previous studies found that drinking may damage parts of the brain involved in emotional regulation, self-control, and decision making, and Dr Haber believes that years of alcohol abuse as a young adult could result in lasting effects for these regions. However, Dr Haber adds that recovering from alcohol dependence can boost a person’s life to improve almost across the board. Moreover, he says that by adhering to other factors of a healthy lifestyle – such as eating well and not smoking – the overall gains to health of stopping drinking will carry on to a person’s later years.