- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

LONDON An advocacy group in Britain is warning the nation that it's not just the youth who are drinking too much, but the elderly as well.
The organization, called Alcohol Concern, released a report yesterday that said more than a million men and women older than 65 are boozing at "unsafe levels."
In particular, the number of elderly women who drink too much above the government-set guideline of 14 drinks a week jumped 75 percent in the last decade, according to the group.
However, it's still a relatively small figure, from 4 percent who drank too much in 1988 to 7 percent in 2000. The percentage of older men whose guideline is 21 drinks a week rose from 13 in 1988 to 17 in 2000.
Alcohol Concern spokeswoman Anne Jenkins suggests the problem isn't necessarily a holdover from the abusers' younger days. The grief of losing a spouse, for instance, could provoke some to seek solace in a bottle.
The report further states that elderly drinking "has been underestimated, and that alcohol problems can impair significantly the health and quality of life of older people."
The group has found that more than 30,000 early deaths each year are attributable to alcohol abuse.
Alcohol Concern's Chief Executive Eric Appleby said he published the report to promote better research.
"While there is some valuable research taking place, this is generally on a fragmented basis, and is at best patchy," he said. "It often falls far short of the needs of policy-makers and planners."
Alcohol Concern acts as the national umbrella body for 500 local agencies tackling alcohol misuse and offering help to the families and friends of those with drinking-related problems.
The Institute of Alcohol Studies, in an earlier report, attributed heavier drinking among today's pensioners to higher levels of disposable income in retirement. Also, longer life expectancies and the aging of the population mean there are more older residents.
"Certainly, drinking surveys suggest that since 1984, in both men and women aged 45 to 65 and over, the proportions of those exceeding the 'sensible limits' have been rising steadily," that report stated.


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