Alcohol and the Elderly: a New Health Problem To Address
(3BL Media/Justmeans) - A new study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) shows that alcohol is now the third leading cause of the global burden of disease and injury, despite the fact many adults worldwide abstain from drinking. Worryingly, other recent research shows it is not the youth that we should be concerned about, but older adults! In Britain, many elderly people are drinking too much alcohol and should be set lower guideline limits, according to a study published by Newcastle University. The academics here believe heavy drinking among the over 65 and over set is strongly linked to depression, anxiety and longer term health problems, and they want to lower safe alcohol levels for people in this age group and offer advice on how to handle drinking to older people.
Unhealthy use of alcohol by older adults is becoming a serious problem; research shows they have a greater sensitivity to alcohol and reduced tolerance. This results from factors including slower metabolism and changes in body composition as we age. Excessive drinking can exacerbate common medical conditions including congestive heart failure, diabetes, dementia and increase risk of falls, and other injuries. It can also impact illness self-management and treatment adherence. The potential for adverse interactions between alcohol and medications adds to the risk, especially since older adults may often take multiple medications.
It is a problem that is increasing too, in the U.S. as nearly one in ten seniors reported at-risk drinking in a national study by Medicare. At-risk drinking was defined as exceeding National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism guidelines, which state that for healthy seniors aged 65 and older (and not taking prescribed medications with which alcohol would present a problem), risky drinking means more than seven standard drinks per week or more than three standard drinks on any single day.
Unfortunately, risky drinking (and alcohol disorders) is often missed in older people. Solutions for dealing with this social issue are needed, from raising awareness to clinical advice to cut back on consumption, brief counselling, and specialised treatment and support if required.
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. As some older people may not even recognise they are heavy drinkers. Therefore, governments really need to start to look at lowering the recommended limit for alcohol consumption in those over 65, especially if we are all going to live longer and rapidly ageing populations brings with it huge challenges. By 2030 there will be 50 per cent more over-65s and more than double the number of over-85s alive in England than in 2010. Some 10.7 million people in Britain will have to cope when they retire; the figures are themselves sobering.
Photo Credit: Brown-Forman Coorporation