Home Blog Uncategorized More Than 10% of Older Americans Have Used Cannabis in the Last Year

More Than 10% of Older Americans Have Used Cannabis in the Last Year

After analyzing available survey data, researchers at the University of Michigan said that 12.1% of adults in the United States aged 50-80 reported using cannabis in the past year. 

“Among those who reported cannabis use, 34.2% reported using cannabis products 4 or more days per week,” the researchers said.

The researchers analyzed data extracted from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, which they described as “a nationally cross-sectional survey that asked U.S. adults ages 50-80 in January 2021 about their cannabis use in the past year.”

(The poll is sponsored by the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation at the University of Michigan.)

The researchers noted that “multivariable logistic regression was used to identify demographic and health characteristics associated with cannabis use” for their analysis.

“More than one in 10 U.S. adults aged 50-80 used cannabis in the 1st year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many used cannabis frequently. As access to and use of cannabis continue to increase nationally, clinicians and policymakers should monitor and address the potential risks among older adults,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion.

The researchers noted that “cannabis use was less likely among people who identified as Hispanic ethnicity or as ‘other’ races compared with non-Hispanic white respondents.”

Cannabis has proven useful to many older individuals, who have turned to pot to mitigate chronic pain and other ailments that accompany aging. 

“It is not surprising that a rising percentage of adults consider cannabis to be a viable option in their later years. Many older adults struggle with pain, anxiety, restless sleep, and other conditions for which cannabis products often mitigate. Many older adults are also well aware of the litany of serious adverse side-effects associated with available prescription drugs, like opioids or sleep aids, and they perceive medical cannabis to be a practical and potentially safer alternative,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in response to the University of Michigan survey.

Other pieces of survey data have illustrated the same trend. 

Earlier this year, The Hill reported on a survey showing that the “share of over-65 Americans who have used marijuana nearly tripled in a decade, from 11 percent in 2009 to 32 percent in 2019,” and that “more than half of the 60-64 demographic reported cannabis use, another sharp increase.”

“Cannabis consumption among older adults reached 35 percent in 2021. But the pandemic affected the survey methodology, researchers said, possibly skewing the results,” The Hill reported. “The graying of cannabis culture signals broadening social acceptance of marijuana, which is now available for recreational use in 23 states. It is also a generational story about the aging baby boomers, a generation that grew up in an era of psychotropic experimentation.  Cannabis use, for many older Americans, is less about getting high and more about getting sleep. And pain relief. And calm.”

Another way to put it: more Americans –– young, old and middle aged –– are using cannabis than any time before, a natural consequence of the wave of legalization that has swept over the country in the last decade.

Gallup confirmed as much earlier this year. In August, the venerable pollster released findings showing that “half of Americans (50%) say they have tried marijuana at some time, a new high point for this behavior that has been inching up over the past quarter century.”

“While essentially unchanged from the 49% and 48% readings in 2021 and 2022, respectively, the new figure is statistically higher than the 45% in 2017 and 2019 who said they had tried marijuana,” Gallup reported

“In answer to a separate question intended to measure current behavior, about one in six Americans (17%) say they ‘smoke marijuana.’ This is also a new high in Gallup’s trend since 2003, albeit similar to the 16% recorded a year ago. These findings are from Gallup’s annual Consumption Habits survey, conducted July 3-27. The proportion of Americans who say they smoke marijuana has more than doubled since 2013, when Gallup first asked the question. That year, 7% said they did. Gallup’s much longer trend on ever having tried marijuana shows that experimentation increased sharply in the first decade after the initial measure. Between 1969 and 1977, it jumped 20 percentage points, from 4% to 24%. It rose another nine points, to 33%, by 1985, but thereafter stalled at under 40% until 2015, when it ticked up to 44%. It remained at about that level through 2019 but then rose to 49% in 2021, roughly where it is today. Over that same period, Gallup recorded a significant increase in the U.S. public’s support for legalization of marijuana, which has grown from 12% in 1969 to 68% today.”

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