Ageing and alcohol

Many of us like to enjoy wine over dinner, a social beer or special occasion cocktail, though few of us would believe we drink too much. It may surprise you to know that drinking more than 10 standard drinks a week is considered risky drinking by Australia’s draft alcohol guidelines. That’s nine pots of full-strength beer, 10 shots of spirits or six-and-a-half glasses of wine – a week.

Between 2007 and 2016, risky drinking among Australians aged 60-69 increased by 17 per cent. In 2016, 18.2 per cent of Australians aged between 60 and 69 drank at a risky level and 13 per cent of women aged 50-59, more than any other age group.

Our metabolisms change with age, meaning it processes alcohol differently than it used to. This can mean you feel the effects of alcohol far quicker than you once did, even after drinking the same amount. Unfortunately, this can mean that maintaining rather than lowering our alcohol consumption as we age may be putting us at risk, without us even realising it.

One study showed that most older women drinking at risky levels believed that they were drinking a normal and acceptable amount. This may be because we often only register the effects of alcohol when somebody appears to be drunk, while unseen damage may be occurring below the surface.

People who are more social are likely to have a higher alcohol consumption due to social drinking. This extends into retirement villages where people have access to social groups around the clock.

Approximately two-thirds of older people take four or more medicines, many of which may interact with alcohol. The Conversation found that 92 per cent of risky drinkers, aged between 58 and 87, took medicines that could cause serious harm when mixed with large amounts of alcohol. Alcohol increases the risk of falls, clashes with some blood pressure drugs, and often reduced the effectiveness of treatments.

Drinking more than 10 standards drinks in a week or more than four standard drinks in a day is considered risky drinking. However, as everybody is different, it is best to discuss your medical history and medicines with your GP to determine how safe it is for you to drink.

If you suspect you may be drinking more than you should, reach out to DrinkWise, Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) or consult your local GP.

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Written by Liv Gardiner


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