Adults flourishing in their 50s are at a much higher risk of drinking excessively than their less-well-off counterparts, a recent study suggests. And this quiet health concern seems to not be targeted by public health policies.
The study’s findings, published in the latest issue of BMJ Open, show that heavy drinking is much more common among people over the age of 50 who are non-smokers, physically active, sociable and not depresses: all categories of good health.
More than 9,250 responses were analysed by the team of researchers who believe that heavy drinking has become a middle-class phenomenon and a problem of otherwise successful people.
Based on information from ELSA (or the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing), researchers accounted for a multitude of variables, such as income, physical activity levels, educational levels, physical well-being, loneliness, depression, marital status, relationship status and employment. The team of scientists then compared this information to the study subjects’ drinking behavior.
According to current NHL guidelines, women should consume no more than 14 units of alcohol per week (the equivalent of seven glasses of wine). Men, on the other hand, are recommended no more than 21 units of alcohol per week, which is the equivalent of 10 pints of beer.
Consequently, harmful drinking was defined as that exceeding the aforementioned limits: between 22 and 50 units per week for men and 15 to 35 weekly units in the case of women. Higher risk was defined over the upper limit for each gender.
Of the 9 million adults exceeding the recommended alcohol unit limits per week in the UK, researchers observed that harmful drinking behaviour increased among men reaching their early 60s. It then gradually decreased.
Women, on the other hand, engaged in harmful drinking after retirement, and certain achievements, such as higher educational attainment and good physical health were connected to a heightened risk in both genders.
“Our findings suggest that harmful drinking in later life is more prevalent among people who exhibit a lifestyle associated with affluence and with a ‘successful’ ageing process,” study authors wrote.
What the team of researchers hasn’t understood yet is why this particular category of adults is at a higher risk. Jose Iparraguirre, lead study author, believes that it may be a reflection of the public health policy’s ineffectiveness of reaching more affluent people. These higher income risk groups, who are clearly more at risk, are not being touched, he said.
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