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Older people's drinking habits

Historically, older people have tended to drink less than any other age group. Trend data shows a decrease in the proportion of those aged 65 and over consuming alcohol, from 8.7 units per week in 2005 to 8.1 units in 2010. Drinkers aged of 65 and over consumed between 3.4 and 5.6 fewer units per week than the total weekly average (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Average weekly alcohol consumption (units), by age: 2005–2010 

Source: Office for National Statistics [ONS] (March 2012), Drinking Tables, in 'General Lifestyle Survey, 2010', Table 2.1

 

Proportion of older people drinking in the last week

The proportion of people aged 65 years and over claiming to have consumed alcohol in the last week has been below the overall average for adults of both sexes in recent years (see Figure 2). From 2005 to 2011, fewer women aged 65 years and over drank in the last week than all other age groups [between 42% and 45%]; on average, over half of all females across all age groups reported drinking at least once in the last week. Two-thirds of older males [between 63% and 66%] reported drinking at least once in the last week, consistently lower than the average for all age groups [between 66% and 72%].

Figure 2: Drinking in the last week (%), by age and sex: 2005–2011 

ONS (March 2013), Drinking [Chapter 2], in 'General Lifestyle Survey, 2011', Table 2.1

 

Frequency of youth drinking

Between 2005 and 2011 (see Figure 3), the proportion of older people who consumed alcohol on 5 or more days in the last week has remained consistently above the overall average for adults, suggesting that although they drink fewer units in a single session, they drink more often than all other generations over the entire course of a week. The proportion of 65+ year-old males who drank on 5 or more days in the last week was 24% in 2011, 8 percentage points above the average for all age groups [16%]; the proportion of 65+ year-old females who drank on 5 or more days in the last week is 13%, 4 percentage points below the average for all female age groups [9%].

Figure 3: Drinking 5 or more days in the last week (%), by age and sex: 2005–2011 

Source: ONS, Drinking [Chapter 2], in 'GLS, 2011', Table 2.3

 

Drinking above the recommended guidelines

Between 2005 and 2011, the proportion of older people drinking above recommended guidelines has remained significantly below the average for both sexes across all age groups. Over the 6 year period, roughly a fifth of men aged 65 and over [between 20% and 23%] drank above 4 units on at least 1 day in the last week. Between 10% and 14% of women aged 65 and over drank above 3 units on at least 1 day in the last week.

Figure 4: Maximum daily amount above the recommended daily guidelines, 2005–2011

Source: ONS, Drinking [Chapter 2], in 'GLS, 2011', Table 2.2

 

Despite lower levels of alcohol consumption, more older people are admitted to hospital with an alcohol related condition that 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].

 

What do older people drink?

ONS figures for Great Britain show that in 2009, Older men were most likely to drink normal strength beers/lagers/ciders and wine, consuming 12.5 and 4.0 units respectively. Older women were most likely to drink wine, with 63% of females aged over 65 years of age consuming an average of 3.7 units per week.

Figure 5: Average weekly consumption of different types of drink, by gender and age, 2009

ONS, Drinking: Adults' behaviour and knowledge in 2009, Table 2.9, in Statistics on Alcohol 2012 (May 2012)