A new report explores influences on older adult's drinking as an area of increasing significance within an ageing population. Researchers from Keele University and University College London aimed to help improve understanding of drinking in later life and to inform possible interventions and guidelines.
Download 'Alcohol Consumption, life course transitions and health in later life'. Presentations from a recent event are also available:
The report's introduction states:
Older people tend to drink less than any other age group. However, in recent years British survey data on alcohol consumption has shown that while younger age groups have experienced a decline in the quantity and frequency of consumption, drinking behaviours among the elderly have not declined in the same way... Yet relatively little is known about the (a) diversity of patterns of drinking in later life; (b) how drinking is associated with key socio-demographic characteristics and health conditions; (c) and how drinking changes over time and which life course events, such as retirement and partnership change, might influence this process.
Main findings include:
- Older men tend to drink more and to drink more often than women.
- For both men and women, those in higher income groups and with higher levels of education drink more and drink more frequently.
- Both the amount that older people drink and how often they drink declines over time, though the rate of decline in quantity and frequency varies according to health and partnership status.
- Men who are not in a partnership drink more compared to men with a partner, though there is no difference in the frequency of men’s drinking by partnership status. For women loss of a partner is associated with a faster decline in weekly alcohol consumption and with drinking less often.
- Poorer self-rated health is associated with not drinking. Among drinkers, there is no evidence that a moderate amount of alcohol consumption improves health in later life compared to heavy drinking.
- Over time older people with poor health and deteriorating health report a steeper decline in the quantity and frequency of alcohol consumed. This finding suggests that older people moderate their drinking in response to health events.
- Those who stopped drinking at the start of the period of observation and remained in the study were more likely to experience an improvement in health compared to drinkers.
In 2012 Alcohol Research UK report on working with older drinkers explored alcohol problems and treatment needs need amongst older adults. The project found a significant and growing number of older people were at risk of alcohol-related harm. Last year an Alcohol Concern briefing warned of a 150% rise in hospital admissions for over 60’s with alcohol related mental health problems.
Also in 2012 a report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists advised over 65's should not drink more than 1.5 units of alcohol a day, and separate recommended guidelines should be considered. An Alcohol Concern Wales briefing paper is also available and presentations from an alcohol and older people event are available here. See here for a RCP leaflet outlining the key alcohol issues and risks for older people.