Alcohol and older people

From Alcohol Policy UK:

A new report explores influences on older adult’s drinking as an area of increasing significance within an ageing population. Researchers from Keele University and University College London aimed to help improve understanding of drinking in later life and to inform possible interventions and guidelines.

The report’s introduction states:

Older people tend to drink less than any other age group. However, in recent years British survey data on alcohol consumption has shown that while younger age groups have experienced a decline in the quantity and frequency of consumption, drinking behaviours among the elderly have not declined in the same way… Yet relatively little is known about the (a) diversity of patterns of drinking in later life; (b) how drinking is associated with key socio-demographic characteristics and health conditions; (c) and how drinking changes over time and which life course events, such as retirement and partnership change, might influence this process.

Main findings include:

  • Older men tend to drink more and to drink more often than women.
  • For both men and women, those in higher income groups and with higher levels of education drink more and drink more frequently.
  • Both the amount that older people drink and how often they drink declines over time, though the rate of decline in quantity and frequency varies according to health and partnership status.
  • Men who are not in a partnership drink more compared to men with a partner, though there is no difference in the frequency of men’s drinking by partnership status. For women loss of a partner is associated with a faster decline in weekly alcohol consumption and with drinking less often.
  • Poorer self-rated health is associated with not drinking. Among drinkers, there is no evidence that a moderate amount of alcohol consumption improves health in later life compared to heavy drinking.
  • Over time older people with poor health and deteriorating health report a steeper decline in the quantity and frequency of alcohol consumed. This finding suggests that older people moderate their drinking in response to health events.
  • Those who stopped drinking at the start of the period of observation and remained in the study were more likely to experience an improvement in health compared to drinkers.

Older people drinking (graphic representation of statistics)

This report coincides with a new initiative being launched in the UK with flagship work taking place in Glasgow, Sheffield, Devon, South Wales and Northern Ireland.  This is to help tackle the issue of drinking in later life and the Big Lottery Fund is investing £25 million into this alcohol-related harm prevention and awareness programme for the over fifties, called ‘Drink Wise, Age Well’, in partnership with support charity Addaction.  Read more here: £25M to help over-fifties enjoy booze without the blues.

Edited to add: further news stories last week about alcohol and the over 60’s can be read here too: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/17/alcoholism-treatment-women-60-addiction

And here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/11234459/Hidden-toll-of-drinking-among-retired-professional-women.html

7 thoughts on “Alcohol and older people

  1. Hey Lucy that’s some shocking figures. 1 in 10 women seeking help with alcohol in their 60’s – the first article you linked to. Blimey.

    Really does open your eyes to trying to get a handle on this drinking habit.

    Thanks.

    1. Yes Daisy – we have a problem it would seem, but the powers that be don’t seem to want to see or acknowledge it. I’m not sure I’d have made it to my 60’s if I’d have carried on like I was …..

  2. I’m with you, I don’t think I would have been around to see my 60’s if I had continued the path I was on. I watched both my paternal grandparents, now deceased, drink heavily, my grandfather actually started to drive around with a half-gallon of gin in the back of his car, and take drinks from it during his time out and about (eek!) he passed away at age 61; my grandmother, after his death, began to drink more heavily, getting up during the night to drink, stay in the bed for days drunk and hungover, but eventually stopped as her health declined and her medications increased. I saw myself adopting these habits of hers and did not want to continue down that road. With today’s post and yesterday’s, I wonder if the general population just doesn’t understand, or grasp, the impact alcohol has on one’s health? xx

    1. Hey Lori Thank you for sharing about your grandparents. It’s tough when we’ve learned it from our family to see that their behaviour might not be the safest! I genuinely don’t think people do understand the impact that it has on our health because the industry play it down and the govt don’t flag it up as they are in the industries pocket. ‘Informed consent’ as we say in medical parlance is lacking xx

    1. Completely on topic feeling 🙂 Absolutely that we can know stuff but then ignore it. When I smoked I did that for years – knew all the dangers, jeez I’m a nurse, but carried on puffing all the same!

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