Feb 082016






The biggest ever study of its kind reveals attitudes towards alcohol and ageing could be leaving over 50s at increased risk of harm from alcohol

The NICRN (PC) has been working with researchers from the University of Bedfordshire on the biggest-ever study of its kind into drinking behaviours among the over 50s. Over 16,700 people from 10 areas across the UK were surveyed including over 2,000 patients from Northern Ireland recruited via Primary Care.

The study for the Drink Wise, Age Well programme revealed a group whose attitudes towards alcohol and ageing is leaving them at increased risk of harm from alcohol. Attitudes held and experienced by older drinkers may stop them for asking for help in reducing their alcohol use. Respondents who drank more than they used to, gave age-related reasons for doing so. Furthermore over three-quarters (83%) of those surveyed who were at increasing risk from alcohol use had never been asked about their drinking by someone who might be able to help. Risks associated with alcohol include depression, poor sleep, memory problems, and trouble with relationships as well as more serious illnesses such as cancer or liver disease.

Preliminary findings are:

  • Over half of respondents aged over 65 believe that people with an alcohol problem have themselves to blame. Nearly a quarter think they should feel ashamed.
  • The five most frequently reported reasons for those who drink more now than in the past are age-related. These include retirement, bereavement, loss of sense of purpose, fewer opportunities to socialise and finances.
  • Around 4 in 5 of those who are at increasing risk of harm from alcohol said that on no occasion had relatives, friends, doctors or other health workers been concerned about their drinking or suggested they cut down.
  • 1 in 4 said they would not tell anyone if they needed help.

Drink Wise, Age Well is supported by the Big Lottery Fund as part of Rethink Good Health, a £25 million UK-wide programme to inform policy and practice UK-wide in preventing alcohol misuse amongst older people. The study was led by the Substance Misuse and Ageing Research Team (SMART) at the University. Dr Sarah Wadd, Director of SMART said: “The findings of this study are remarkable because they reveal that many over 50’s believe that people with alcohol problems are to blame or should feel ashamed. This is important because it means that they may be less likely to seek advice or help for their drinking”. The Drink Wise, Age Well programme will tackle stigma and aim to smooth the transition into later life so that people don’t turn to alcohol to help them cope.”

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