Drinking behaviour and alcohol-related harm amongst older adults: analysis of existing UK datasets

BACKGROUND: Older adults experience age-related physiological changes that increase sensitivity and decrease tolerance to alcohol and there are a number of age-related harms such as falls, social isolation and elder abuse, which are compounded by alcohol misuse. Despite this unique vulnerability and the fact that the number of older adults is increasing, the literature on drinking behaviour and alcohol-related harm in older adults is sparse. This article describes a secondary analysis of UK data to address this knowledge gap.

METHOD: Secondary analysis of national statistics on alcohol-related hospital admissions and alcohol-related deaths, and data on drinking behaviour from the General Lifestyle Survey. Trends were identified by calculating percentage changes between time periods. The association between drinking behaviour and selected age groups was investigated using one way analysis of variance or chi-square tests.

RESULTS: Older adults (aged 65 and over) drink less and are less likely to exceed the recommended drink limits than younger adults. However, they are more likely to be admitted to hospital for an alcohol-related condition than younger adults and the most significant increases in alcohol-related hospital admission rates in recent years have occurred in older age groups. Alcohol-related death rates are highest amongst those aged 55-74 years old. Alcohol consumption and the prevalence of exceeding the recommended drink limits has fluctuated but not significantly increased in older adults in recent decades.

CONCLUSION: Older adults experience high and increasing levels of alcohol-related harm and as the population ages, this is likely to put increasing pressure on health and social services. Careful monitoring and age-appropriate strategies to detect and treat older adults at risk of alcohol-related harm are required.

Additional Info

  • Authors

    Wadd S.; Papadopoulos C.
  • Issue

    BMC.Res.Notes / pages 741-
  • Published Date