Researchers at Newcastle and Sunderland have found older people should drink less alcohol or risk damaging their health. Their study suggests heavy drinking is more likely to cause long term problems for those over 65 years old.
Frances Read reports.
Many older people are drinking to a level that is having a long-term impact on their health, even if the damage they are doing is not always immediately apparent.
Alcohol interventions are not working for older people for many reasons. A lot of those we interviewed said the messages around alcohol were very confusing.
There is a need to develop new approaches to target the older population, for example longer in-home support, tailored information on the risks from alcohol in later life, or health workers with specific training on older people’s needs.
We also think the Government really needs to start looking at lowering the recommended limit for alcohol consumption in those over 65.
We support the call for clearer guidance and information to be made available in order for Older People to make informed choices about how much Alcohol they consume. Most of the people that approach us are not clear how the body reacts to alcohol as we get older or effects when combined with prescribed medications. GPs sometimes don't explain in detail some of these effects.
This research also shows it is important to have a range of social activities available for older people to alleviate social isolation and as additional support following bereavement or illness.We need to address the social as well as the medical issues this research highlights
Newcastle University academics have called for changes to the recommended safe levels of drinking for over 65s and for special alcohol advice to be made available for older people.
It follows research from Newcastle and Sunderland Universities looking at why many older people continue to drink to levels which are harmful to their health.
Current recommended safe levels of drinking are 14 units a week for women and 21 for men.
Heavy drinking in this age group is strongly linked with depression and anxiety and longer term health problems. Metabolism is slower in later life, and older people are very likely to take prescribed medicines that can interact with alcohol.
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A growing number of white-collar workers are drinking too much because of stress, according to researchers at Sunderland University.
They say white collar workers, a term used to describe people who have a professional or managerial-role, are "largely disregarding the harmful health and social effects" of drinking alcohol.
Researchers say middle-class workers who drank at home saw alcohol as a reward for everyday chores after work hours, such as looking after their children and cooking dinner for the family.
They are describing it as a 'middle-class alcohol time-bomb'.
"One of the issues that people tend to focus on in relation to alcohol use is 'problem drinking'. Problem drinking is usually thought of in terms of young people binge drinking in city centres, or people with alcohol dependency.
"However, what is starting to be recognised is that regularly consuming alcohol at lower levels than would cause intoxication is likely to be harmful to health, and that the people that drink most regularly aren't young people, but those who live in households where someone has a managerial or professional job."
"Our research showed a common perception among some middle-class groups that regularly drinking at home, particularly wine, is safe and sensible, even though such drinking regularly takes them over the recommended daily guidelines.
"These home drinkers don't see their drinking pattern as problematic, but evidence suggests that such regular drinking will lead to significant health problems later in life, and a major health burden for the NHS."
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