Drink Wise, Age Well: Alcohol Use and the Over 50s in the UK

Jan 18, 2016 | REPORTS

A hidden population of over 50s at increasing risk from their drinking may well be hidden in plain sight according to the first ‘State of the Nation’ report from Drink Wise, Age Well.

The report, produced by ILC-UK as part of the Drink Wise, Age Well programme, is the most comprehensive picture of the relationship the UK’s over 50s population have with alcohol today.

Presenting new primary research from a large scale study, the largest of its kind exploring alcohol use and behaviours in the over 50s population, the report finds:

  • There are high-levels of stigma and shame associated with drinking in older adults across the UK sites. In fact , 55% of adults aged over 65 who gave an opinion believe that people with an alcohol problem have themselves to blame, and nearly a quarter think they should feel ashamed.
  • The five most frequently reported reasons for those who drink more now that in the past were age related. These include retirement, bereavement, loss of sense of purpose, fewer opportunities to socialise and finances
  • Around 4 in 5 of those whose drinking was putting them at increasing risk of alcohol related harm* (score of ≥ 8 on Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT)**) said that on no occasion had relatives, friends, doctors or other health workers been concerned about their drinking or suggested they cut down.
  • Around a quarter would not know where to go for help if they needed it, with 1 in 4 saying they would not tell anyone if they needed help.
  • Almost three quarters of respondents were unable to identify what recommended lower risk guidelines were (prior to revised guidelines in Jan, 2016). Over a half did not feel fully confident they could keep track of their alcohol units.


Authors: George Holley-Moore and Brian Beach