Age a factor with alcohol?

As a person gets older their body is less able to break down alcohol

Older people's drinking habits: Very little, very often - IAS

Official statistics on the consumption habits of older people in UK over recent years indicate that they consume fewer units than younger generations (see Young people and alcohol factsheet for more information), but that they are more likely to drink on an almost daily basis over the course of a week. It could be argued that compared to their children (and grandchildren, in the case of women aged 65 and over) older people drink very little, but very often. But the rising number of alcohol-related admissions/discharges and deaths in the UK among those aged 65 years and over highlights the health problems underlying their consumption habits.

Reasons for drinking and types of older drinkers

The sudden disruption in lifestyle caused by retirement and bereavement – which can lead to decreased social activity – is thought to be a major contributory factor among older people who develop a drinking problem, as are isolation and loneliness. Some justify the regular consumption of particular beverages (i.e. brandy, rum) on the grounds that it acts as an anaesthetic with medicinal properties which help remedy illnesses and pains, but this may instead help to foster a dependence on alcohol.

Researchers have identified 3 types of elderly drinkers:

  • Early-onset drinkers (Survivors): those who have a continuing problem with alcohol which developed in earlier life. Because of the health risks connected to heavy drinking and dependence on alcohol, the lifespan of a problem drinker may be shortened by on average 10 to 15 years.

  • Late-onset drinkers (Reactors): they begin problematic drinking later in life, often in response to traumatic life events such as the death of a loved one, loneliness, pain, insomnia, retirement, etc.

  • Intermittent (Binge drinkers): they use alcohol occasionally and sometimes drink to excess which may cause them problems.

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As You Age, Alcohol May Be Harder to Handle

Seniors may be more vulnerable to alcoholism, a psychologist warns.

"As we age, it takes longer for the body to break down alcohol. It stays in the system longer. Tolerance also decreases. Excessive drinking can compromise your immune system and can lead to some forms of cancer," said Brad Lander, an addiction medicine specialist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

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Myths about drinking

What are common myths about drinking?

Alcohol is good for stress

Drinking in moderation may have some benefits such as helping you relax or feel more sociable. However, daily drinking, even in moderation, can become a habit and have harmful long-term effects.

For example, as we age, we become more sensitive to the toxic effects of alcohol on the brain. We can no longer break down and excrete alcohol from the body as quickly therefore can be at risk of falls or injuries.

If you are looking to de-stress there are plenty of ways to do this without alcohol.

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