Alcohol has been part and parcel of British culture for time immemorial but there comes a time when the the balance habit and health starts to shift in the wrong direction. We have already seen this in Australia 30 years ago and the serious consideration given to changing public opinion about alcohol is now paying dividends in improving public health. When I started taking an interest in this area, it was largely through necessity.
In particular, I have witnessed first hand, the unhealthy relationship between older people and alcohol starting to spiral out of control. This is reflected in over half of all alcohol related admissions occurring in the over 55 group and a near quadrupling in the number of alcohol related hospital admissions for over 65s in some areas of the country.
Using London as an example, you can click on the image below to see this more clearly
It is also notable that even in the 75+ age group, there has been an increase in the rate of alcohol related deaths over the past decade or more
In view of these trends, there remains a need to address a need that currently appears to be below the ‘policy radar’. If there are innovative and clinically effective ways of meeting these needs within mainstream older people’s mental services, as is the case in South East London, the outcomes speak for themselves. The Articles and Briefings section will cover this in more detail.
As a free society, we should not be against freedom of choice. However, it is important that these choices are informed so that balanced decisions are made. This is not easy when someone has chosen a lifestyle that involves alcohol being the sole focus of their lives, in spite of being aware of the harm that it can cause.
Older people often seem largely unaware of how the amount and the pattern of their drinking behaviour can affect their health, particularly the way in which the way the body responds to alcohol as we age, the effect of medication and the use of alcohol to ‘self medicate’ mental health problems.
As the number of people aged 55 and above in the UK population continues to rise, the combination of longevity and changing attitudes towards drinking has started to impact on both public health and the NHS as a whole.
This website has been set up to explore the area of alcohol and older people’s health. As a starting point,it attempts to draw together the strands of evidence from different sources to build up a picture of the nature and scale of the problem. As far as possible, it will try to maintain a balanced view.
Alcohol has and will always remain an emotive subject but there is now a greater need than ever to ensure that the growing evidence for the harm that is associated with its use and misuse in older people is more widely recognised