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  1. ITV Report

Pensioners warned about excessive alcohol consumption

Over-65s have been warned about their alcohol consumption by health experts following a study of Londoners which found one in five are drinking unhealthy amounts.

The research was based on more than 28,000 Lambeth residents Credit: PA Wire

Research conducted by academics from King's College London and published in BMJ Open said the Baby Boomer generation represent an ever-increasing population of older people drinking at levels that pose a risk to their health.

65%
of men were classed as unsafe drinkers

Analysis of more than 28,000 health records of Lambeth residents found that heavier drinkers tended to be male, younger and relatively affluent.

Men were more likely to be unsafe drinkers than women - 46% of people in the study were male, but they were 60% of the drinkers and 65% of the unsafe drinkers.

This study shows the need for greater awareness of the potential for alcohol related harm in older people, particularly those of higher socio-economic status, who may suffer the consequences of ill health from alcohol at an earlier age than those in previous generations

– Report lead author, Dr Tony Rao
21
number of units of alcohol per week regarded as unsafe for men

Alcohol drinkers were also more likely to be white or Irish, while people from Caribbean, African or Asian ethnicities were less likely to drink. Lambeth's ethnically diverse populations means that other parts of the country are likely to have far higher numbers of heavy drinking over-65s.

Because the findings rely on patients giving details of their drinking habits to their GP, it is likely many under-report their consumption, which also means the true levels are bound to be much higher.

Alcohol excess carries additional risks in the older population such as falls and confusion.

– Dr Mark Ashworth, King's College

Lead author Dr Tony Rao said: "As the Baby Boomer generation become seniors, they represent an ever increasing population of older people drinking at levels that pose a risk to their health."

The median alcohol consumption was six units per week for all over-65s who reported drinking. The top 5% of alcohol drinkers reported consuming more than 49 units per week for men and more than 23 units per week for women.

14
number of units of alcohol per week regarded as unsafe for women

Study author Dr Mark Ashworth, from the Division of Health and Social Care Research at King's College London, said: "Reducing alcohol misuse is important to prevent premature death and serious negative health effects, such as alcoholic liver disease, which are big burden on our health system.

"Based on our findings, the elderly who were most at risk were those from the white British population rather than from an ethnic minority, and those who were wealthier and better educated rather than those from a more deprived background."