UK's Elderly Have A Drinking Problem: Study Suggests Lowering Alcohol Guidelines For 65 And Older

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Many elderly people in Britain are drinking too much alcohol and should be set lower guideline limits, a new study published on Thursday said.

Academics said heavy drinking among the over 65s is strongly linked to depression, anxiety and longer term health problems.

They want lower safe alcohol levels set for people in this age group and advice on drinking to be offered to older people.

"Many older people are drinking to a level that is having a long-term impact on their health, even if the damage they are doing is not always immediately apparent," said Dr Graeme Wilson of Newcastle University.

Academics also said heavy drinking can have a bigger impact on older people due to the way it reacts with medication and because people's metabolisms slow down as they get older.

The research was carried out by academics from Newcastle and Sunderland universities through Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health. They interviewed 53 men and women between 65 and 90.

They added that many older people may not recognise they are heavy drinkers.

Current recommended safe levels of drinking are 14 units of alcohol a week for women and 21 for men, but many of those interviewed questioned health practitioners who urged them to drink less, the researchers found.

Previous studies have suggested that 28 percent of men and 14 percent of women aged over 65 in England drink alcohol over five times a week, with the problem worst in the northeast.

One of the women interviewed said she drank a bottle of wine every day -- about 63 units a week -- but denied she had a problem.

"If somebody found me in the corner drunk that would probably shock me into stopping but that has never happened," she said.

Others in the study spoke of having "skinfuls" -- about five or six pints -- but said that was not a problem because they did not suffer adverse effects.

Dr Katie Haighton, another Fuse staff member at Newcastle University, said: "Alcohol interventions are not working for older people for many reasons.

"We think the government really needs to start looking at lowering the recommended limit for alcohol consumption in those over 65."

The study published in the PLOS ONE journal was funded by Age UK.

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