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Ageing well

Reducing alcohol-related harm in older adults

There is evidence that alcohol misuse is increasing in people over the age of 65. There are well established links between alcohol consumption and long-term conditions, such as high blood pressure and cancer.

Alcohol contributes to key 'lifestyle' risk factors, such as being overweight or obese and contributes to falls and fractures in the older population. Older people may have had a lifelong pattern of problem drinking or may first develop drinking problems in later life. About a third of older people with drink problems develop them for the first time in later life. As individuals become older they often experience significant life changes (e.g. loss of family, friends and poor health) changes in role, retirement or becoming a care giver and can experience social isolation.

These life changes may be associated with an increase in alcohol intake. There is evidence that today's population of older people may be relatively heavier drinkers than previous generations. National data tells us that one in five older men and one in ten older women drink enough to harm themselves.

Key actions

  • Increase awareness of alcohol-related harm (including the use of alcohol and prescription drugs) among older adults
  • Further develop a 'Making Every Contact Count' approach for health and social care staff
  • Ensure that staff who have face-to-face contact with older people are trained in alcohol identification and brief advice (an evidence based conversational tool which has been shown to alter drinking behaviour)
  • Ensure older adults identified as having an alcohol misuse problem can access effective treatment services and recovery support.

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