Survey finds middle aged drinkers most likely to be at risk

By Oli Gross

- Last updated on GMT

Survey finds middle aged drinkers most likely to be at risk

Related tags Alcoholic beverage Drink Liver disease

Middle-aged people are most likely to be drinking too much as 3.4 million are at higher risk levels, according to latest research.

Alcohol education charity Drinkaware’s survey found that 32% of 45-64 year olds drink to increasing or higher risk levels compared to 19% of 18-24 year olds, despite many recognising the potential health harms.

Young adults tend to drink large amounts on one or two occasions a week, whereas middle aged drinkers are more likely to spread their drinking across the week.

Two-thirds of increasing or higher risk middle aged drinkers drink four or more times a week, putting themselves at risk of health problems.

This group drinks the equivalent of almost three pints of 4% ABV lager five times a week for men or almost three standard 175ml glasses of 13% ABV wine five times a week for women. Over a week, this is equivalent to an extra full day’s calorie intake.

Most say they are not getting drunk, but these alcohol levels are associated with liver disease and cancer.

One in twenty of all drinkers aged 45-64 get drunk every time or most of the time they drink compared to three in ten of 18-24 year old drinkers.

48% of 45-64 year olds who drink to increasing or higher risk levels believe moderate drinking is good for your health, and half believe they are unlikely to have increased health problems in later life if they continue to drink at this level. 

Drinkaware reaction

Elaine Hindal, chief executive of alcohol education charity Drinkaware said: “In contrast to public perceptions that young adults are the more risky drinkers in the UK, in fact over the course of the week, their parents’ generation are drinking more. Our research shows that 45-64 year olds could potentially be sleepwalking into long term health problems as a result of their drinking patterns.

“Regularly drinking above the lower risk limits can increase your tolerance to the short-term effects of alcohol – but not to the strain it’s putting on your liver. As your tolerance increases, you’re more likely to drink more. This habitual behaviour could also put you at an increased risk of becoming alcohol dependent. 

“Just because you don’t feel like you are drinking enough to get drunk, doesn’t mean you aren’t damaging your health. This is one of the main reasons it’s important to give your liver a break by taking regular days off from drinking.”

Awareness of health harms

Drinkers were asked to identify the main types of health harms related to alcohol.

  • Liver disease was identified by 77% of 45-64 year olds and 57% of 18-24 year olds.
  • Coronary heart disease by 20% of 45-64 year olds and 12% of 18-24 year olds.
  • Weight gain/obesity by 15% of 45-64 year olds and 7% of 18-24 year olds.
  • Cancer by 8% of 45-64 year olds and 7% of 18-24 year olds.

45-64 year old drinkers appear reluctant to change their drinking behaviour despite many acknowledging that alcohol can harm your health.

59% say they don’t want guidance on how to moderate drinking compared 37% of 18-24 year olds who drink.

This could be because although they are drinking above the lower risk limits, they do not perceive themselves to be at risk because they are not getting drunk, the study suggests.

Middle-aged drinkers may think their drinking is not harmful because they are not experiencing negative consequences associated with drunkenness. However, when asked, 17% of 45-64 year old drinkers said they had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking and 11% said they failed to do what was normally expected of them because of their drinking.

For support use Drinkaware’s free mobile app​.

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