Growing Problem of Alcohol Consumption in the Elderly

Alcoholism is a growing problem in the UK and one that is placing a huge burden on the economy. Billions of pounds are spent every year on alcohol-related illnesses and injuries. The National Health Service and the Criminal Justice System spend massive amounts of money dealing with the consequences of alcohol abuse. However, most people assume that it is young people causing all the problems.

New figures show that alcohol abuse is a huge problem for older people. In fact, according to statistics from Public Health England, the number of individuals over the age of sixty-five admitted to hospital every year for alcohol-related injuries and illnesses is steadily increasing.

Shocking Figures

Alcohol-related hospital admissions in those over the age of sixty-five stood at 261 out of every 100,000 in 2008/2009. By 2014/2015, that number had risen to 275 out of every 100,000 people. Nevertheless, the highest rate of hospital admissions for alcohol-related illnesses and injuries is for those aged between forty and sixty-four; 371 out of every 100,000 admissions in this age bracket were alcohol-related in 2014/2015.

National director for health and wellbeing at Public Health England (PHE), Kevin Fenton said, “The harm we are seeing among middle-aged and older drinkers is a concern. The highest rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions for men and women is among those aged 40-64, with admissions for liver disease still rising and a gradual increase in alcohol-related cancers over the past decade.”

Harmful Drinking

He added that a large number of people were unaware that their level of alcohol consumption is causing damage to their health. Nonetheless, he pointed out the PHE is working with a number of organisations to try and implement new measures that will encourage people to drink less.

There has been a twenty-nine per cent increase in the number of hospital admissions since 2008/2009 where alcohol was listed as either the primary or secondary reason for admission.

The number of individuals being diagnosed with alcohol-related cancers is also on the increase. From 2004 to 2006, 35 out of every 100,000 people was diagnosed with alcohol-related cancer, but that figure had risen to 38 per 100,000 between 2012 and 2014.

Older Drinking Concerns

Local Government Association spokesperson Izzi Seccombe said that there are concerns regarding the increase in the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions in the over sixty-fives. She added, “Despite drinking comparatively little, older people consume alcohol far more often. These figures warn of the dangers of regular drinking over an extended period of time and the impact this can have on the body of an older person, which is less able to handle the same level of alcohol as in previous years.”

World Cancer Research Fund’s head of health, Sarah Toule, said, “It is particularly worrying that the age group the most at risk of developing cancer, the over 65s, are seeing an increase in hospital admissions due to alcohol.”

She added that the risk of certain cancers such as liver, bowel and breast increases with any amount of alcohol consumption, no matter what age the person is. She also pointed out that if everyone in the UK stopped drinking alcohol altogether, around 24,000 cases of cancer could be avoided each year. She said, “If people do decide to drink, we recommend that they have no more than seven drinks a week spread over at least three days and keep at least a few days alcohol-free.”

New Guidelines

The Government responded to calls for new alcohol guidelines with a review in 2015 and the report from PHE was published in early 2016. It led to a reduction in the recommended weekly alcohol limit for men to be brought in line with that for women at 14 units per week. A warning was also issued that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption when it comes to the risk of developing certain illnesses.


  1. More pensioners admitted to hospital with alcohol issues (Belfast Telegraph)