Never mind the college kids. A sizable chunk of senior citizens are drinking at "unsafe" levels, which could have serious consequences for their health, according to British researchers.

It's important to note that the recent study, published in the journal BMJ Open, included only residents living in the borough of Lambeth, a section of London south of the River Thames. But when researchers at King's College London examined the health records for nearly 28,000 people older than 65 in the district, they made some notable findings.

Of the more than 9,200 people who reported consuming alcohol, nearly 2,000 were drinking at troublesome levels: more than 21 units of alcohol for men and 14 units for women each week. A unit of alcohol equals about half a pint of beer or a small glass (125 ml) of ordinary-strength wine.

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The unsafe drinkers were likely to be younger, male and of higher socioeconomic status. And although the median alcohol consumption was about six units a week for the seniors who reported drinking, the top 5 percent of alcohol drinkers knocked back a startling 49 units per week for men — that's easily in excess of a bottle of whiskey — and more than 23 units per week for women. The researchers also found problematic drinking was more common among white British or Irish people, and much lower among seniors of African, Caribbean or Asian descent.

Mark Ashworth, one of the study's authors and a senior lecturer at King's College, told the BBC that problematic drinking among elderly people exceeds the rates of the general population:

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"Very few [doctors] are switched on to the idea that their older patients could be drinking at these levels — we all look out for it in younger patients, but we are less attuned to it in the elderly."

Again, the researchers cautioned that their results included only residents from one swath of London. The results may not hold true in areas with different demographics or cultures. But with so many baby boomers turning 65 in the United States and abroad, the authors said doctors everywhere should be keenly aware of the risk of heavy drinking in older people, which can contribute to a range of health problems.

According to the National Institutes of Health, excessive drinking among the elderly can worsen conditions such as diabetes, congestive heart failure and memory problems, ultimately leading to premature death. In addition, older people tend to take more medications, which can have adverse reactions when combined with alcohol.

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