SHAFAQNA – A decline in drinking among middle-aged people over the past decade could be caused by isolation as well as a growing awareness of the dangers of alcohol, research has suggested.
A study published this week which looked at 4,500 people over the age of 45 over a ten year period found on average men’s consumption dropped from 19 units a week to 14 and women’s from nine to seven.
The Drinking Later in Life research, which analysed data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, also found men and women were drinking less frequently, with those drinking every day down by a quarter to one in seven at the end of the study.
However, while women cut down their drinking following the break down of a relationship, wealthy, educated and single men were among a minority that bucked the trend and drank more.
Major factors for greater drinking among this group are likely to be associated with multiple opportunities to socialise, due to a single life, and a disposable income, researchers said.
Professor Clare Holdsworth of Keele University, who led the research, said: “Overall in later life most people’s alcohol consumption declines and they also drink less frequently.
“The risk of loneliness and isolation in later life could be a factor. For most people drinking is a social activity and there can be less social opportunities for people as they get older.
“They could also be responding to health advice if they are taking medication for other health problems.
“There is also a recent growing awareness that steady, regular drinking is bad for your health.”
She said public health warnings about heavy drinking need to be targeted at men who do not see their drinking as a problem.
“Our findings suggest that the group most at risk of heavy drinking in later life are older single men with high levels of education and above average wealth,” she added.
“Suggesting that health organisations target this group is not necessarily straightforward as these men might not identify their drinking as problem behaviour.
“Also this group are less likely to have poor health in the short term, hence the need for intervention might not be apparent.”
Many people who suffer alcohol-related health problems are not alcoholics or binge drinkers but instead regularly drink more than the recommended daily limit, according to the NHS.
Liver problems, reduced fertility, high blood pressure, increased risk of various cancers and heart attack are among some of the numerous harmful effects of regularly drinking more than the recommended levels.
The ten-year study, Drinking Later in Life, analysed data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and was funded by the the Economic and Social Research Council.