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Over-65s 'drinking too much alcohol'

27 August 2015 09:20

Some older people are risking the ill effects of alcohol misuse, research suggests

Some older people are risking the ill effects of alcohol misuse, research suggests

An "alarming" number of older people are drinking an unsafe amount of alcohol, data suggests.

Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King's College London claim one in five over-65s are putting their health at risk by exceeding the recommended number of units per week.

They are calling for greater awareness of the potential for alcohol-related harm among older people, particularly the 'Baby Boomer' generation.

Unsafe levels

The study, published in BMJ Open, analysed the health records of almost 28,000 people living in the borough of Lambeth in London.

Unsafe drinkers were more likely to be male, younger and have a higher socio-economic status.

Those who had more money and were better educated tended to be heavier drinkers than those from a more deprived background.

Men were also more likely to be unsafe drinkers than women - unsafe levels were defined as more than 21 units of alcohol for men and 14 units for women each week - as were white or Irish people compared to those from Caribbean, African or Asian ethnicities.

Health risks

Heavy drinking can increase blood pressure and blood cholesterol, both of which are major risk factors for heart attacks and strokes, while long-term alcohol misuse can weaken the immune system.

Older people's travel insurance covers emergency medical expenses, giving them the peace of mind needed to enjoy trips abroad.

Growing concerns

As Lambeth has an ethnically diverse population, the researchers claim other parts of the country are likely to have far higher numbers of heavy drinking over-65s.

They also warn true levels of consumption could be much higher as the findings of the research rely on patients giving details of their drinking habits to their doctors, meaning it is likely many under-report their consumption.

Lead author Dr Tony Rao says there is a need to raise awareness of the potential for alcohol-related harm in older people.

He adds that individuals of higher socio-economic status need to be more aware of the damaging consequences as they may suffer ill health from alcohol at an earlier age than those in previous generations.