Over-50s are turning to alcohol to help deal with stress

Over-50s are turning to alcohol to help deal with stress

A new survey has revealed that the over-50s are increasingly turning to alcohol and as a result are developing dangerous drinking habits.

The survey, which is part of a report called 'Drink Wise, Age Well: Alcohol use and the Over 50s in the UK', found that the main reasons why the over-50s are drinking more are to help cope with:

  • Stress
  • Boredom
  • Bereavement
  • Isolation
  • Loss of sense of purpose
  • Fewer opportunities to socialise
  • Change in financial circumstances

The study is the largest that has ever been undertaken on this age group and it shows that the NHS now spends more money on alcohol-related hospital treatment for 55-74 year olds than it does for 16-24 year olds.

Between 2002 and 2010, hospital admissions amongst the over-65s increased by 136% for men and 132% for women. Additionally, alcohol-related deaths for those aged between 55 and 74 went up by 87% for men and 53% for women.

Amongst the 17,000 people who responded to the new survey, four in five were found to be ‘increasing risk drinkers’, yet a quarter of those said that they would not know where to get help even if they wanted it. A further one in four said that they wouldn’t even tell anyone if they did need help.

Speaking about the results of the survey, the chief executive of the Royal Voluntary Service, David McCullough commented:

“This report gives rise to some concerning characteristics in relation to higher risk drinkers. More often than not, they are not in a relationship, they live alone and they have a long-standing illness or disability.”

He continued:

“One in three higher risk drinkers cite being down or depressed as a reason for drinking and 41% say they drink because they’re lonely or bored.”

High risk/low risk drinkers

Higher risk drinkers are also more likely to report poorer physical and mental health. Both increasing risk and higher risk drinkers are more likely to say they are struggling to cope with the stresses in their life, they’re unable to get the emotional support they need from their family, and/or they struggle to engage in activities that they find fulfilling.

The reasons given for consuming alcohol, as well as with whom they drink, vary between high and low risk drinkers. 92% of low risk drinkers say that when they do drink, it’s with someone else. Amongst high risk drinkers this drops to 62%. Just 1% of lower risk drinkers say that they consume alcohol when they’re feeling low or depressed whereas this increases to 36% for higher risk drinkers. Furthermore, 78% of high risk drinkers say that they drink to take their mind off their problems compared to just 39% of the lower risk respondents.

Perhaps one of the most concerning findings of the survey is that amongst the increasing risk drinkers, around four in five said that at no point had friends, family, doctors or other health workers expressed concern about their drinking or suggest that they cut down. One in five of the higher risk drinkers said that they have never been approached about their drinking either.

74% of those surveyed said  they cannot identify the recommended drink limits for adults. Earlier this year, new guidelines came into effect in the UK and they now state that neither men nor women should drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week. It is also advised that the intake of alcohol should be spread evenly over three days or more and that drinkers should limit the amount of alcohol they consume in a single occasion. It’s also strongly advised that both men and women have at least two alcohol-free days per week,

In the report, lower risk drinkers were defined as men who regularly drink 3-4 units of alcohol per day and women who regularly drink 2-3 units of alcohol per day. This group were classed as lower risk rather than no risk because mounting evidence suggests that no level of alcohol use is without risk entirely, particularly amongst older adults.

Increasing risk drinkers were classed as men who regularly drink more than 3-4 units a day and women who regularly drink more than 2-3 units per day.

Higher risk drinkers were defined as men who regularly drink more than eight units of alcohol per day or more than 50 units a week. For women this was those who regularly drink more than six units per day or more than 35 units of alcohol a week.

If you think that you or someone you know could have a problem with alcohol, please feel free to visit our Alcohol Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation page for more information about the signs, symptoms and treatments that are available. Alternatively, you can also contact Life Works in the strictest of confidence and we will be more than happy to help and offer advise.

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