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Warning to baby boomers about drinking in older age

A recent report into alcohol and older people has suggested that our growing aging population, and its often increasing dependency on alcohol, could be a “demographic time bomb”.

Specialists in health and older people at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh are calling for particular attention to be paid to problems associated with drinking in later life.

Much has been reported in the media over the last two weeks about Scotland having the dubious honour of lying eighth in the world league table of alcohol consumption.

However, Dr Jan Gill, Leader of the Alcohol Evidence Group at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, believes that most attention appears to be on the problems of teenage and younger adult drinkers, with little concern for the particular problems associated with the older population’s relationship with alcohol.

She explained: “The Alcohol and Ageing Report has highlighted the potential impact of our ‘demographic time bomb’. Individuals born post-war, between 1945-1965, known as the ‘baby boomers’, are now in, or approaching, their sixties. This group consume relatively higher levels of alcohol than their predecessors.

“The concern is that if they continue this pattern of drinking in older age they will place significant alcohol-related demands on future health and social services.

“In Scotland it is estimated that if this group do not reduce consumption as they age, the number whose drinking may be a threat to healthy old age may rise over three fold.”

Dr Gill believes that many of us are living with a false sense of security believing that the positive health effects of moderate alcohol consumption outweigh the harmful effects. She explained:

“Research published last week linking moderate consumption to increased cancer risk, demands we question this widespread belief. Another area of concern is that published work has suggested that alcohol problems in older people go undetected for longer, and are often misdiagnosed.”

Dr Gill warns: “Lack of action will ultimately lead to major problems in the near future for individuals, families, NHS services and society as a whole.”

source: Queen Margaret University

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