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Revealed – the hidden epidemic of elderly problem drinkers

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 Revealed – the hidden epidemic of elderly problem drinkers

Alcohol misuse in people aged over 60 is reaching ‘epidemic’ proportions, according to new research published this week.

A survey for charity Foundation66 found that over one in eight (13 per cent) admitted drinking more after retirement.

Of these, one in five (19 per cent) uses alcohol because of depression, and one in eight (13 per cent) drinks to deal with bereavement.

The survey of 857 people aged 60 and over also found that one in eight (13 per cent) older drinkers are most likely to drink alone at home.

A separate poll carried out for the charity also revealed widespread concern over the issue, with one in 10 adults worried about the amount of alcohol consumed by a friend or family member aged 60 or over.

The charity is urging government to widen its focus on problem drinking to fund more services to meet the need that exists among older people.

Chief Executive of Foundation66, Sally Scriminger, said: “The older people we see with drink problems come from all walks of life. Many are retired professionals, who never had issues with alcohol in the past.

“Because they don’t fit the stereotypes people hold about alcohol misuse, and because they often keep their drinking hidden, there just aren’t enough services out there to offer them the help they need.”

The dangers of alcohol are increased among older drinkers, particularly because of medication, frailty, and other health problems.

Heavy drinking is associated with a raised risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and dementia.

And drinking too much can also lead to falls - which are more likely to seriously injure an older person.

Pensioners accounted for 357,300 alcohol-related hospital admissions in England in 2007/8 - a 75 per cent rise in five years.

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