Are we the binge drinking boomers?

There is a newfound sobriety among younger Australians, according to a report. But at the other end of the scale, research reveals a binge-drinking boom.

binge drinking

There is a newfound sobriety among younger Australians, according to a new report. But at the other end of the scale, research reveals a binge-drinking boom.

A Nielsen report has found that 66 per cent of 21 to 34-year-old drinkers in Australia are making an effort to reduce their overall alcohol intake as a result of being more health-conscious. And 20 per cent of Australians abstained from alcohol in 2017 – an 11 per cent increase from 2007.

However, the attitude shifts have not flowed through to consumption changes for older drinkers and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is concerned.

The Nielsen report concludes that “older people are pretty set in their drinking ways” and that “improvements in knowledge and attitudes are not going to be enough to shift their behaviours in the same way” as younger age groups.

Data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) shows that Australians are starting to drink at a later age and that 18 to 29-year-olds are drinking less. But in the 49-plus age group, a bracket that goes up to 70, there is not a downward trend in alcohol intake.

“It’s a worrying trend if you consider that, after age 40, for each decade, you’ll have one chronic illness, generally speaking,” said Associate Professor Demirkol.

“And so with that chronic illness, and polypharmacy, if you add alcohol on top of those medications, it can make things quite complicated. There are lots of issues around it.”

The RACGP says statistics show that the concerning drinking behaviours apply for both men and women.

“Age and gender are not protected factors,” said Assoc. Professor Demirkol.

“In fact, what we’re seeing is that women over 49 years old are actually drinking more compared to six years ago, and men’s bingeing behaviour, up to 60 years old, is almost on par with younger people, and that’s something we’ve not seen before.

“We are also seeing about eight per cent of the 70-plus age group drinking excessively on a regular basis, and about 20 or 30 per cent, depending on the gender, of 50-years-olds drinking harmfully.

“That’s a significant finding. We’re not talking about single-occasion drinking – we’re talking about on a regular basis.”

A report in The Conversation says that one in 10 people aged 65 and over engage in binge drinking.

Binge drinking for men is defined as drinking more than six drinks in one sitting and for women, drinking more than four drinks in one sitting.

Dr Tony Rao, lecturer in old age psychiatry at King's College in London, says that in the UK hospital admissions for mental disorders related to alcohol have risen by 21 per cent in the past five years in people aged 50 and over.

“These admissions are due to a range of mental disorders from alcohol dependence and intoxication to memory disorders such as dementia. Unfortunately, this is a trend that has only worsened over the past 15 years as the ‘baby boomer’ generation has aged,” he says.

Using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), researchers in the UK asked participants a series of questions to rate a person’s risk of alcohol-related harm.

The study found that men were one-and-a-half times more likely than women to have current or past alcohol-related problems – such as injury due to alcohol consumption. They also scored an average of two points less on average on a dementia-screening test, which meant they were likely to be at a higher risk of developing dementia.

Dr Rao says his research shows that many older people are not receiving much support when it comes to monitoring and reducing their drinking behaviours. Older people are often not asked about their drinking habits by health professionals, whereas younger people are regularly asked.

He says that older men who regularly drink above the weekly limit or binge drink are at higher risk of developing certain types of dementia.

“Alcohol-related dementia is different from other types of dementia,” he says, “as it damages the frontal lobes of the brain and may lead to changes in personality, such as being more impulsive and having difficulty controlling emotions.”

Do you drink more than the recommended level? Have your drinking habits changed as you have aged?

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.



    To make a comment, please register or login
    Horace Cope
    12th Nov 2019
    I'll drink to that!
    12th Nov 2019
    Good to see that younger people are drinking less but in my area that is not the case. OK we oldies have been drinking since age 18, some states 21 in those days. But then we did not demand pill testing in music venues. Maybe beer and wine is still better than all these chemical substances young people are now keen on.
    Leave us oldies our drinks, they are expensive enough, especially drinking out. My glass of wine went up a full dollar to $6. The full bottle is only $10 at Dan Murphy's.
    12th Nov 2019
    I agree Sailor (Mariner) I didn't 'start' drinking until I was 19-20 and then I didn't go round 'one punching' people either :( Co-incidentally I grew up with the mind set/belief that you didn't 'kick a man when he's down' or the common saying now of 'stomping'. Come to think about it I, as a 'Boomer', still don't and still don't drink/fight to excess when I've enjoyed a few drinks with friends :) Go figure ;) Starting to get really pizzed off with the growing sport of Bash A Boomer in the press etc. Really wonder where it REALLY originates.
    12th Nov 2019
    Oh come on. The Boomers 'invented' teenagers (there weren't any before the 50s), along with sex, drugs and rock and roll! Do you really think they/we will stop now?
    12th Nov 2019
    My neighbours recently threw an 18th birthday party. None of those health conscious youngsters turned up, just a pack of drunken brawlers and of course the police had to be called to sort it all out. Perhaps a statistical anomaly but I'm unaware of similar happenings when the participants are mostly "boomers"
    12th Nov 2019
    Where do they get these statistics? I've never been asked about my alcohol consumption!

    I know quite a few in the 60+ age group that don't even touch the stuff.
    12th Nov 2019
    I will die happy
    13th Nov 2019
    As the very youngest 'Boomers' are now in their late 50's I think the reference to the excessive drinking habits of anyone in their 40's or early 50's is a red herring. Those people are still working, and if like we were at that age, they are working full time shift work in high stress jobs, or running businesses with responsibility to employees, or now working longer hours to make ends meet, I'm not surprised they have a few too many now and then. Furthermore, as heyybob pointed out, our generation didn't have a proclivity to violence, probably because we didn't have the opportunity to drink until all hours - 6 O'clock Swill wasn't extended to 10pm closing until 1966/67 in Vic, NSW and SA and stayed at that time for a couple of decades at least. So give us a break - with any luck we might pop off the mortal coil a few earlier and take the pressure of the public purse
    13th Nov 2019
    Just when people need to drink less due to increasing risks of hypertension (high blood pressure), they are stupidly drinking more!
    This then increases the likelihood of strokes and heart attacks simultaneously with increasing weight which further exacerbates all the fatal risks.
    Alcohol slows down the metabolic rate which already is slowing due to increasing age as well as increasing fluid retention to increase one's weight and bloated appearance.....not a good look at all!
    Not only that, it places a greater strain on your kidneys as well as liver and thus leading to other fatal diseases besides increasing one's likelihood of getting cancer anywhere in your body or diabetes if it runs in your family.
    Every part of your body is interrelated and interdependent, therefore if one part is affected then it unbalances the other parts thus adding greater strain and likelihood of diseases.
    1 0r 2 drinks per day with a couple of alcohol FREE days is GOOD for your health per week but NOT MORE!
    13th Nov 2019
    Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine in coffee and tea IMMEDIATELY INCREASES YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE VERY SIGNIFICANTLY!
    17th Nov 2019
    I agree Mez but the best situation for optimum health is no alcohol.
    13th Nov 2019
    Maybe pensioners drowning their sorrows, just about every day this goverment comes out with something to persecute them we are all alcoholics.??maybe we just want to get to hell of this roundabout the government are spinning faster and faster.the yuppies can’t afford to drink they need it for the restaurants they frequent three four times a week, they spend more on food in a week than a pensioner spends in a month, and some two months,these types of survey are designed by goverment to keep young and old at each other’s throats,it stops the people actually looking at the atrocious governance we are receiving from these thieves and liars taking your dollars for themselves and their corrupt mates,young and old need to unite and shoot these traitors selling our country down the drain or to anyone who will buy .The big problem is there may not be enough bullets for them all we would probably have to import .
    17th Nov 2019
    Trouble is alcohol is a depressant, so drowning your sorrows is only temporary and actually makes it all worse.
    13th Nov 2019
    I know quite a number of retirees that drink excessive amount of alcohol. I have no sympathy with the ones that are on the age pension when they complain that the pension is no enough to live on.
    13th Nov 2019
    Yep same here David. I am in a retirement village, and a lot of drinkers here. All good wines as well.
    Not the coolers that the kids drink. I saw in a recylce bin one day big flagon type of bottles of what I called "Sherry" but has
    a new name now. Not sure if the owner had stocked piled them or it was from a couple weeks of drinking.
    As long as you are not driving, and not causing anybody any problems, then why not enjoy your final years
    with a few drinks later in the day.
    17th Nov 2019
    Never touch the poison, it is very harmful to the liver and will increase risk of all diseases, not too mention the damage it does to society. And the stuff is legal!
    17th Nov 2019
    Same here musicveg.
    Regarding the health effects, the WHO estimates that there are around 3.3 million deaths worldwide per year due to harmful use of alcohol. Thus, alcohol-related deaths make up nearly six percent of all global deaths per year. In Australia alcohol related deaths are around 4 times the national road toll. As far as road fatalities in Australia are concerned, 1 in 3 are caused by drink driving. I went to a 'Towards Zero Road Safety' forum earlier this year and the Police Minister said that alcohol and drugs are the biggest cause of deaths on the road (37%), even more than speeding (30%)!
    It is estimated that if alcohol was severely restricted in Australia, there would be 6,000 fewer deaths from alcohol related diseases and injury and 70,000 fewer assaults pa.
    Alcohol is one of the main causes of domestic violence. In Australia there are 24,000 victims of alcohol related domestic violence pa.
    There's also the financial costs for those that drink alcohol, which is especially a burden for people who are on low income or on the age pension.
    17th Nov 2019
    Shocking statistics, so glad there are some young people waking up from the stupor of having to have alcohol in their life. People say it makes them happy, but it is a false happiness being a depressant. The Government spends a lot of money of stopping speeding, might be time to start spending more on reducing alcohol use. I gave up it up just over 19 years ago, not that I did drink much anyway.

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles