Wealthy elderly turning into risky alcoholics

London, Aug 24 (IANS) More older adults especially from the higher strata of the society are drinking alcohol at unsafe levels, a study has found.

One in five older people who drink alcohol are consuming it at unsafe levels – over 21 units of alcohol for men and 14 units for women each week.

One alcohol unit is measured as 10 ml or eight gram of pure alcohol. This equals one 25 ml whisky (40 percent alcohol), third of a pint of beer (5-6 percent) or 175 ml glass of red wine.

Older men were more likely to be unsafe drinkers than women, the researchers found.

As the Baby Boomer generation become seniors, they represent an ever increasing population of older people drinking at levels that pose a risk to their health.

“This study shows the need for greater awareness of the potential for alcohol related harm in older people, particularly those of higher socio-economic status, who may suffer the consequences of ill health from alcohol at an earlier age than those in previous generations,” said Dr Tony Rao, lead author from King’s College London.

While 46 percent of people in the study were male, they constituted 60 percent of the drinkers and 65 percent of the unsafe drinkers.

The team used electronic health records for 27,991 people aged 65 in London. They identified 9,248 older people who had reported consuming alcohol and of these 1,980 people drank at unsafe levels.

Alcohol drinkers were also more likely to be ethnically White or Irish while people from Caribbean, African or Asian backgrounds were less likely to drink.

“The results highlight that as physicians, we need be more aware of the risk of older people, especially men, drinking excessively,” said co-author Dr Mark Ashworth.

Reducing alcohol misuse is important to prevent premature death and serious negative health effects, such as alcoholic liver disease.

Alcohol excess carries additional risks in the older population such as falls and confusion.

The research was published in the journal BMJ Open.

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