Drink Wise, Age Well – Alcohol Use and the over 50s in the UK – is a report based on initial study findings from the Substance Misuse and Ageing Research Team at University of Bedfordshire and compiled by the International Longevity Centre UK.
Several important findings have emerged from the research:
• The majority of respondents aged over 50 in the UK are ‘lower risk’ drinkers. However
there is a significant minority who are not. 17% of the survey respondents are ‘increasing risk’
drinkers, whilst 3% were found to be of ‘higher risk’.
• The reasons given for consuming alcohol, as well as with whom they drink, varies between
lower risk and higher risk drinkers. Whilst 92% of lower risk drinkers drink with someone else,
only 62% of higher risk drinkers do. Whilst 1% of lower drink drinkers say they drink when
down or depressed, this increases to 36% for higher risk drinkers. And 78% of higher risk
drinkers say they drink to take their mind off their problems, compared to just 39% of lower
risk older respondents.
• Among those who said they were drinking more now than in the past, the five most frequently reported reasons for the increase are age-related. These were retirement (40%), bereavement (26%), loss of sense of purpose in life (20%), fewer opportunities to socialise (18%) and a change in financial circumstances (18%).
• Being an increasing risk drinker is associated with being male, younger, living in Scotland, identifying as LGBT, not having a chronic illness, still being in work and not having further education after school leaving age. The factors associated with being a higher risk drinker include the first four factors listed above, along with living alone, not having a partner, being widowed and having a chronic illness or disability.
• Higher risk drinkers also are more likely to report poorer physical and mental health, whilst
both ‘increasing risk’ and ‘higher risk’ drinkers are more likely to say they are unable to cope
with stresses in life, unable to get emotional support from family, and not able to engage in
activities they find fulfilling.
• Respondents over 50 who feel downhearted or depressed are nearly 4 times as likely to be a
higher risk drinker, as are those who accomplished less than they would have liked as a result
of emotional problems. It was also found that the strongest predictor for being a higher risk
drinker is not coping with stress. Both increasing risk and higher risk drinkers were less likely
to say they were free from worries about money and less likely to say they feel part of their
• Around 4 in 5 of increasing risk drinkers said that on no occasion had relatives, friends,
doctors or other health workers been concerned about their drinking or suggested that
they cut down. 1 in 5 higher risk drinkers had never been asked. Around a quarter (23%) of
respondents would not know where to go for help if they needed it, with 1 in 4 saying they
would not tell anyone if they needed help.
• We have also found that 74% of respondents in the UK cannot correctly identify the
recommended drink limits. When asked about attitudes towards people with alcohol
problems, 20% of respondents thought that the majority of people with alcohol problems
cannot recover, and 45% thought that people with alcohol problems have themselves to
blame (increasing to 55% for over 65s). These attitudes held by a significant minority of older
respondents in the UK indicate that there are some stigma and barriers which need to be
considered when forming strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm in this age group.
Read more here
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