Affluent over-65s more likely to drink at dangerous levels: One in five breach guidelines on safe levels of consumption
Wealthier and better-educated pensioners more likely to drink to excess
Comes after scientists analysed the drinking habits of 28,000 over 65s
Also found that men more likely to breach drinking guidelines than women
Source: Daily Mail
By Ben Spencer
23 August 2015
Heavy drinking is becoming a problem of the retired middle classes, researchers have found.
An investigation into the drinking habits of British pensioners revealed that the wealthier and better-educated are more likely to drink to excess.
Scientists compared the levels of 28,000 over-65s and found that unsafe drinkers were more likely to be of higher socio-economic status.
For decades experts have assumed that alcohol mainly blights the lives of the poor living in deprivation.
But the latest study, by scientists at King’s College London, adds to growing evidence that middle-class, middle-aged people are now the heaviest drinkers.
The NHS recommends that men drink no more than 21 units a week – roughly nine pints of beer – and women no more than 14 units, roughly one-and-a-half bottles of wine.
The research, published in the medical journal BMJ Open, found that one in five over-65s who drink alcohol breach these guidelines. The heaviest drinkers were most likely to be white, wealthy and educated.
Men were more likely to drink above the guidelines than women, and those in their late 60s were more likely to drink than older pensioners.
The analysis comes as the NHS prepares to review its recommended safe drinking levels. Some experts want older people to be given lower limits, given the higher health risks they face from drinking too much.
Study author Dr Tony Rao, of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s, 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.’
His team analysed GP records for 27,991 people aged 65 and over in the London borough of Lambeth. The average alcohol consumption was six units a week for all over-65s who reported drinking.
However, the top 5 per cent of drinkers reported consuming more than 49 units a week for men – about 20 pints of beer – and more than 23 units for women, about two-and-a-half bottles of wine.
Co-author Dr Mark Ashworth said: ‘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.
‘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. Alcohol excess carries additional risks in the older population such as falls and confusion.’
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.
Several recent studies have warned that drinking has become a ‘middle-class phenomenon’, particularly among the over-50s.
Last night liver expert Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: ‘GPs can play a vital role by picking up risky drinking patterns early in this older age group who are often frequent attenders at their surgeries.’