Over one in five over-50s binge drinking once a week

'Addiction NI' claims current restrictions are impacting the drinking habits of older people. Credit: Christian Charisius / PA Images

More than one in five over-50s in Northern Ireland are binge drinking at least once a week during lockdown.

That's according to a newly released Opinion Matters poll which was commisioned by the 'Drink Wise Age Well' programme.

Charity 'Addiction NI' claims the poll shows how the necessary restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus are seriously impacting the drinking habits of older adults in Northern Ireland.

The survey shows 9.3% of over-50s said alcohol is negatively affecting their mental health, while nearly one in four said the pandemic means they're more likely to drink alone.

Current restrictions are set to remain in place until Friday 27 November. Credit: Peter Byrne / PA Images

The research shows the scale of this issue looks set to increase in Northern Ireland over the next few weeks, with nearly one in ten over 50s saying they are likely to drink even more due to a second national lockdown.

To help more older adults access the support they need, the 'Drink Wise Age Well' programme is launching a new over-50s specific alcohol helpline run by trained advisors and funded by the National Lottery Fund.

It is a free, national helpline running seven days a week which will provide confidential advice, information and support to anyone aged 50 or over who may be worried about their drinking. Alex Bunting, Group Director of Addiction and Mental Health Services at 'Addiction NI' has described the figures as 'alarming'.

'Addiction NI' is one of the 'Drink Wise, Age Well' programme partners. Credit: Addiction NI

He said: "We know that life changes such as bereavement, retirement and a lack of purpose have led to older adults drinking more in recent years while younger generations are drinking less. Nearly 80% of over-50s we work with drink at home alone, hidden from view.

"It's clear from these findings that the necessary coronavirus restrictions have exacerbated these issues whilst having a big impact on older adult's mental health."

He continued: "Many older adults are unable to see their loved ones or friends and are drinking more as a way to cope with increased loneliness, isolation and anxiety.

"As people age their bodies find it harder to process alcohol, so the number of people over 50 who are binge drinking at the current time is really alarming."

Mr Bunting added: "To anyone 50 or over who's concerned about their drinking, give us a call. You'll speak to someone who understands what you're going through and can support you to make healthier choices that will benefit all parts of your life."

Nearly one in four over-50s said they're more likely to drink alone during the pandemic. Credit: PA

Under current restrictions, pubs and bars are set to remain closed until Friday 27 November.

Binge drinking is classified as:

  • Women drinking more than 6 units in one sitting

    • 3 medium glasses of 12% wine

    • 3 pints of lower-strength beer

  • Men drinking more than 8 units in one sitting

    • 4 medium glasses of 12% wine

    • 4 pints of lower-strength beer

'Drink Wise, Age Well' is led by mental health charity "With You" and works with four other strategic partners - the Royal Voluntary Service; Developing a Caring Wales; Addiction NI and the Substance Misuse and Ageing Research Team (SMART) at the University of Bedfordshire.

The programme, which is funded by the National Lottery Fund, helps people aged 50 and over to make healthier choices about alcohol.

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