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More older women being treated for drinking excessive alcohol

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A worrying number of older women are entering formal treatment for alcoholism, according to new figures.

Medical experts have warned that the trend is being driven by the new vogue for home shopping delivery.

Nearly 10% of those starting treatment is now a woman aged 60 or more, which compares to 6% five years ago.

“I have seen many examples of alcohol being delivered to older people who are too damaged or impaired by it to go out and buy it themselves”

Paul McLaren

In contrast, women beginning treatment for alcoholism between the ages of 18 and 29 went down – from 18% five years ago to 14%, according to latest figures from Public Health England, quoted by the Priory Group, best known for offering rehabilitation to troubled celebrities.

The figures show a similar trend among older men – with 8% of those males entering treatment being over 60 compared to 6% five years ago.

The number of men aged between 18 and 29 entering treatment was 15% last year from 19% in 2008-09.

Some 835 people – men and women – died during treatment in 2013-14.

Priory consultant psychiatrist Dr Paul McLaren said: “A common pattern is for regular drinkers, who have had their consumption constrained by the structure of working, tipping into harmful drinking in retirement.


Paul McLaren

“Many of the women I see are retired professionals who never had issues with alcohol in the past,” he said.

“Then there is home delivery. I have seen many examples of alcohol being delivered to older people who are too damaged or impaired by it to go out and buy it themselves,” he said. “So they don’t even have to leave home to buy alcohol – supermarket delivery services will bring it straight to their door.”

He added: “Retirement, bereavement and loneliness can increase a person’s drive for alcohol. But the dangers of alcohol are increased among older drinkers, particularly because of medication, frailty and other health problems.

“Because older women don’t necessarily fit the stereotypes people hold about alcohol misuse, and because they often keep their drinking hidden, there just aren’t enough services out there to offer them the help they need,” said Dr McLaren.

More over-60s women treated for drinking

“Some are socialising more – which is wonderful, but of course that often revolves around taking alcohol, and some elderly people mistakenly believe they have built up an alcohol tolerance,” he said.

This research was conducted by The Priory Group

The figures are being highlighted at the start of Alcohol Awareness Week.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • All forms of questioning - media/medical profession - already assume the person does drink, rather than ask 'if you drink alcohol, how much do you drink?'. That tells me more about the pro-alcohol present-day norm that it tells of my (non)drinking.

    How did we get here? Put in any healthcare professionals names into Facebook and you more likely to see them with a picture, post or joke about drunkenness than you are anything else.

    Our economy is supported by over-consumption of questionable products. So, if the economy would slump if, tomorrow, everyone consumed with moderation, how do we get out of this? Mainstream TV airs products and conversations about alcohol that they never would do so for cigarettes.

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