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Alcohol and the Over-65s

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Forget drunken laddettes, hen parties and football fans. According to the latest U3A magazine, "Third Age Matters", the big drink problem of our age is among the old.

More pensioners were admitted to hospital for alcohol-related injuries and illness last year than 16-24-year-olds. In the past five years there has been a 62% increase in alcohol-related admissions for the over-65s.

The problem is now taken so seriously that the Big Lottery Fund is investing £25million to tackle it. Dr Sarah Wadd of the Institute of Applied Social Research at the University of Bedfordshire, told The Guardian: "Evidence suggests that the UK may be facing an epidemic of alcohol-related harm among older people."

She said an estimated 1.4 million people aged 65 and over now exceed recommended drink limits, and post-war baby-boomers were moving into old age drinking relatively high levels of alcohol compared with previous generations.

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, one in five older men and one in 10 older women drink enough to harm themselves, a rise of 40% in men and 100% in women over the past 20 years. About a third of pensioners with drink problems develop them for the first time in later life.

Older people are more sensitive to alcohol's effects, reacting more slowly and tending to lose their sense of balance. The liver also becomes less efficient at breaking down alcohol as we age.

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