Loneliness caused by being home alone for extended periods of time, and less opportunity to see friends and family are some of the reasons cited for a stark rise in over 50s consuming high-risk amounts of alcohol.
According to a survey by alcohol charity, We Are With You, nearly a quarter of those surveyed (24%) are now believed to be high-risk or dependent on alcohol since the pandemic began.
It also found that about 51% of those above 50 may be consuming alcohol at a level that could damage their health, with more than 4 million having in excess of four drinks in one sitting at least once a week.
Julie Breslin, head of the Drink Wise, Age Well programme at We Are With You, suggested that COVID had made functional alcohol dependence more possible because of people working at home en masse.
“Nearly 80% of over-50s we work with drink at home alone, hidden from view,” she said. “It’s clear from these findings that the necessary coronavirus restrictions have exacerbated these issues whilst having a big impact on older adult’s mental health.
“Many older adults are unable to see their loved ones or friends and are drinking more as a way to cope with increased loneliness, isolation and anxiety.
“As people age their bodies find it harder to process alcohol, so the number of people over 50 who are binge drinking at the current time is really alarming.”
To help more older adults access support, the charity has launched a helpline for over-50s specialising in alcohol-related advice.
It comes after research conducted by the Centre for Ageing Better found that unhealthy habits may have become more ingrained since lockdown began, with 32% of 50- to 70-year-olds estimated to be drinking more.
Across the entire UK, a larger study carried out by the University of Glasgow involving more than 27,000 people, suggests a rise in people drinking more than six drinks in a single sitting at least once a week – from 10.8% in 2017-19 to 16.2% during lockdown – with a rise in all age groups besides those under 25.
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