Drinking in older age is fast becoming a hot topic, with statistics showing higher risk drinking declining in all age groups except those aged 55 and over.
Retirement and loss of purpose are key factors for increased alcohol use in the over 50’s. Loss of identity and structure, including changes in normal routines have all contributed to the increase in alcohol consumption, with 65-74year olds reporting having drank most days in the previous week. Bereavement and worries over finances have also had a part to play, which in more recent times may have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
According to Drink Wise Age Well the following factors can be influential when looking at the relationship between older adults and alcohol use:
Pain. People who have reported pain interfering with their daily activities or with their work were twice as likely to be higher risk drinkers.
Stress. People who are struggling to manage stress and feel as though they are not coping are 5 times more likely to high risk drinkers.
Mental Health. People who were feeling depressed within the last month or finding that physical and mental health was impacting on their social activities/sense of achievement were 4 times more likely to be in the higher risk category.
Drinking alcohol at any age is not risk averse, although it seems regularly drinking alcohol as you get older comes with added risks;
As we get older the rate in which we process alcohol slows down. As a result, alcohol toxins spend more time in the liver before they are metabolised, increasing the risk of damaging the liver.
Our hearing, vision and reaction times are also affected as we get older. Alcohol is a depressant affecting the central nervous system. Consuming alcohol can affect our balance and coordination, delay our reaction times, and affect our judgement, as well as reduce our hearing and alter our vision. The older we get the more significant these effects may be, as we are already starting to experience these things when sober. Older people may therefore be more likely to experience falls and have accidents in the home.
Alcohol can also react with medications. It’s important to seek medical advice when being prescribed medication by your GP. Some medications that also act on the central nervous system, including anxiety medication and medication to lower blood pressure may affect how our bodies react to alcohol. With the likelihood of older people taking more medications for health conditions, it’s important to acknowledge any possible side effects.
Alcohol related harm doesn’t just impact the younger generation. It’s just as important to consider amongst the older generation too. 80% of older adults in the increasing and higher risk category, have reported never being asking about their drinking by a health professional. Register for free today to speak to one of our Health Coaches.
The information and advice within this blog are not intended to replace any medical advice, with all our clients we seek to address their individual needs and circumstances - this includes any adaptations required for long- or short-term health conditions and medications. Please seek medical advice if you have any health conditions before considering a lifestyle change. If you would like to address any of the content of this blog, please email us.
The content in this blog is informed by the following literature:
Can’t handle alcohol like you used to? It’s not in your head. The real reason you can’t drink like you used to. (Randi Hutter Epstein October 24, 2020)
Drinking in later life: a systematic review and thematic synthesis of qualitative studies exploring older people’s perceptions and experiences. (Bethany Kate Bareham, Eileen Kaner, Liam Patrick Spencer, Barbara Hanratty. April, 2018)