WEARSIDE academics have discovered a growing drink problem among older people as part of a major study.
Researchers at the University of Sunderland, along with experts at Newcastle University, carried out the study which looked at alcohol abuse among the older generation in the region.
The study, which was also carried out in collaboration with Age UK and South of Tyne and Wear PCT, found that heavy drinking is often the result of “big changes”, such as retirement, bereavement, feelings of boredom, loneliness and depression.
They are now urging the Government to review its UK health strategy to support society’s “invisible addicts”.
Ann Crosland, professor of nursing at the University of Sunderland, one of the study’s lead researchers, said: “An ageing population means that the number of older people with alcohol problems is inevitably on the increase.
“The need to establish an understanding for the problems faced by this generation has now become urgent.
“It would be a sad reflection on society if we just ignore this.”
Professor Crosland said little research has been carried out into the problem and its impact on drinkers or their families, as the effects are often less obvious, go unreported, and unlike younger drinkers, more older people drink in their own homes.
The research team has been gathering data for the last two years through a review of literature, the mapping of current services and gathering the views and experiences of older people aged between 51 and 90.
“More information is needed to understand the patterns of drinking in later life and to establish the extent, nature and impact of hazardous drinking among older age groups,” she said.
“Service providers must start to consider the needs of older drinkers in their commissioning decisions. Drug and alcohol services also need to engage more effectively with this age group.”
Bereavement and lack of meaningful activity were reported as triggering an increase in their alcohol intake.
But many revealed that their excessive drinking had started earlier in their lives and had carried on into old age.
John Briers, chief executive of Age UK South Tyneside, said: “This research highlights what we have known for many years based on many of our service users who are isolated, depressed, bereaved and vulnerable.
“Alongside this research we have been delivering health promoting advice through a variety of community and domiciliary based services.
“We are extremely grateful to South of Tyne and Wear PCT who commissioned this work after we raised with them some of our concerns.”