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Health impacts: Hospital admissions

Despite lower levels of alcohol consumption, more older people are admitted to hospital with an alcohol-related condition than younger age groups. Figure 6 shows a continual upward trend in alcohol-related admissions to hospitals in England among older people in the last decade. There were over half a million alcohol-related admissions of those 65 and over in 2010 [520,950], more than double the number of admissions in 2002 [197,729].

Figure 6: Number of alcohol-related hospital admissions in England, aged 65 years and over, by sex, 2002–2010 


Source: North West Public Health Observatory [NWPHO]

When broken down by sex, trend data show that the continual increase in alcohol-related admissions to hospitals in England among 65+ year-olds was even greater for males than for females. Between 2002 and 2010, there was a 175% increase in the number of admissions for men aged 65 and over [from 118,444 to 326,813], whereas the number of admissions for women aged 65 and over showed a marginally smaller, but no less significant increase of 145% over the same period [79,284 to 194,145].

A similar pattern occurs with the figures on the number of new cases of treatment for alcohol misuse. According to the National Treatment Agency, there were nearly 2,000 new alcohol misuse treatment cases among older people in England in 2011/12 [1,983], which represents a peak and continues the upward trend in cases registered since records began.[i]


Statistics for Scotland focus on the number of alcohol-related discharges rather than admissions (for information on why this is the case, please read the How alcohol mortality and morbidity rates are calculated in the UK section of the Health impacts factsheet). Scottish statistics also differ from English figures, as their oldest age bracket begins from age 60 years.

The number of alcohol-related hospital discharges of patients aged 60 and older in Scotland has remained constant between 2006/07 and 2010/11, from 10,446 [in 2006/07], rising slightly to a 5 year peak of 11,008 [2008/09], before returning to roughly the 2006/07 level in 2010/11 [10,437]. The proportion of alcohol-related discharges has remained fairly constant over the period; roughly 1 in 4 alcohol-related discharges to Scottish hospitals between 2006/07 and 2010/11 involved an elderly patient [26 – 27%].

Figure 7: Alcohol-related hospital discharges in Scotland, aged 60 years and over, 2006/07 – 2010/11



Source: Alcohol Statistics Scotland, 2007 to 2011

Mortality rates

Similarly, alcohol related death rates amongst older people are higher than other age groups. ONS figures show that the number of deaths from alcohol-related causes among people aged 75 and over in the UK increased by 58% in the last 20 years, from 528 in 1991 to 834 deaths in 2011. Alcohol-related mortality rates among 75 year-olds have also been persistently above the average for all age groups during the period (see Figure 8). In 2011, the rate of alcohol-related deaths among 75+ year-old men per 100,000 population was 24.8 compared to the overall male average of 17.2. For females, the rate of alcohol-related deaths among 75+ year-old women per 100,000 population was 12.4 in 2011, compared to 8.3 across all ages.[ii]

Figures 8a and 8b: Age-standardised alcohol-related death rates (with 95% confidence limits) by sex and age group, United Kingdom, 1991–2011

Figure 8a: UK female mortality rates, 75+ years




Figure 8b: UK male mortality rates, 75+ years



Source: ONS (January 2013), 'Alcohol-related deaths in the United Kingdom, 2011', Reference Table 1

Mental health

A 2012 briefing report examining trends in hospital admissions for older people with mental and behavioural disorders secondary to the use of alcohol exposed an upward trend in hospital admissions of people over 60 years of age with alcohol-related mental health problems in the last decade. According to Health Episodes Statistics data, there was a 150% rise in the number of admissions between 2002 and 2012, and a 140% increase in the number of over 60 year-olds being admitted to hospital with Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome* over the same period.[iii]

*        Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome is a form of brain damage caused by alcohol use.

[i]        National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (October 2012), 'Alcohol Statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS), 1st April 2011 – 31st March 2012', p. 20, Table 5.2.1

[ii]       Office for National Statistics [ONS] (January 2013), 'Alcohol-related deaths in the United Kingdom, 2011', Reference Table 1

[iii]      Dr Rao, Tony, ‘Alcohol and the mental health of older people’, Alcohol Concern