Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's over 50s less likely to heed advice over alcohol

By Victoria O'Hara

Northern Ireland has the highest number of adults over 50 in the UK who do not know what the healthy recommended drink limits are, a new survey has revealed.

A Drink Wise, Age Well report surveyed 16,700 people in 10 parts of the UK - including the Western Health Trust and South Eastern Health Trust areas here.

The two study areas in Northern Ireland were found to have the highest percentage of adults over 50 who were unable to correctly identify recommended drink limits (77%) and who did not feel fully confident in calculating alcohol units (62%).

A further breakdown of the figures showed 63% of older adults had been involved in binge drinking in the last 12 months.

Worryingly, 14% of older adults had driven within an hour of drinking alcohol in the last year.

Recent research warned of the hidden toll of alcoholism among elderly middle class women, partly fuelled by the growth of online shopping delivery services.

Previous research also indicated daily drinking among older people with 18% of men and 14% of women aged 60-75 years old drinking almost every day in Northern Ireland.

The latest government guidelines published earlier this year recommend not regularly drinking more than 14 units per week. But one major issue is the lack of understanding of what that actually means. But the new report says that elderly drinkers here are in a worse position with nearly a quarter, 23%, not confident they could calculate units and only half were confident or very confident.

A panel of experts yesterday discussed the findings of the report at an event held at Queen's University.

One panellist, Addiction NI CEO Thelma Abernethy, described the problem as "a growing concern which requires a collective response". She has said the problem was often hidden because older people tended to drink at home rather than in pubs and clubs.

With at least 20% of over 50s in the UK exceeding recommended alcohol units, and alcohol related harms significantly increasing in this age group, Drink Wise, Age Well now aims to create a healthier relationship with alcohol for the overs 50s population through a preventative approach.

In 2013 alone, 236 people in Northern Ireland were registered as dying from an alcohol-related death - 172 men and 64 women.

However Northern Ireland was praised for having Older Focus Service. As part of Addiction NI it is the first specialist alcohol treatment service for the over 50s.

For support contact Addiction NI on 028 90664434 or visit

Belfast Telegraph


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