New Study Finds Cannabis Use is Surging Among Older Americans

By Melissa Hutsell

 

 

A newly released study, published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, finds cannabis consumption increased by 75% among older Americans in the past four years.

Specifically, researchers from New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine find cannabis use among those aged 65+ grew from 2.4% to 4.2% between 2015-2018. 

It’s Not Just Older Americans, Either

To conduct the study, researchers took four years of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That data included responses from nearly 15,000 people 65 years of age and older. 

Researchers set out on the study to determine whether or not consumption is on the rise among aging Americans. Not only did they discover it was–but, they also found consumption up in other populations, too. 

According to Cannabis Wire,  women, those with mental illness, and minorities are ingesting more cannabis. People with higher incomes are also more interested in the herb that previously recorded. 

The New York Times reports that, “In men, the percentage rose from 3.6% to 4.2%, while for women it jumped from 1.5% to 2.9%. Among college educated seniors, [cannabis] use over age 65 rose from 2.9% to 6.2%, and in those making $75,000 a year or more, from 2.4% to 5.5%.”

Increased Consumption, or Increased Candidness? 

Joseph Palamar, an associate professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, and one of the study’s authors, tells Cannabis Wire that the majority of older people who use weed, “aren’t recent initiates. At least this is what our previous studies suggest.”

Palamar believes the data shows a rise “mainly driven by boomers who use weed aging into the 65 and older age bracket.” 

In other words, it’s possible that older Americans are not necessarily using more weed. But rather, users are just…well, aging. That, or they’re becoming more candid about their use.

The Research Says…More Research is Needed

Though a trend is apparent, the study’s researchers offered no exact reasons for it. 

However, they did suggest that the state-by-state legalization movement is influencing consumption rates across age groups and income brackets.

They also noted another factor: older Americans are interested in using cannabis to treat chronic or long-term conditions common in aging adults, like insomnia. But, lead author, Benjamin Han, explains to The New York Times that most respondents seemed healthy. 

The rise might not seem so sharp. But as Han notes, “consider that not even 10 years ago 0.4% of adults 65 and older said they had used [cannabis] in the past year.” Now, he says, it’s 10 times that. 

Emerald contributor since February 2016

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