Launch of Drink Wise Age Well Over 50's Helpline

18 November 2020

One in five over 50s in Northern Ireland is binge drinking at least once a week during lockdown.

Launch of Drink Wise Age Well Over 50's Helpline

- 9% said alcohol is negatively affecting their mental health.

- One in four (25%) said the pandemic has led to them drinking alone.

- 15% said they normally drink ten units or more when drinking.

- More than three in four (76%) say they are likely to drink the same or even more during the current lockdown.

- Across the UK, more than one in two (51%) over 50s are drinking at a level that could cause health problems now or in the future, with nearly one in four (23.2%) classed as high risk or possibly dependent.

- A new free and confidential over 50s alcohol helpline is being launched today by With You. Anyone over 50 who may be worried about their drinking can call 0808 8010750 or visit Addiction NI for more info. 

One in five (20%) over 50s in Northern Ireland are binge drinking at least once a week during lockdown, according to new research released today by Drink Wise Age Well. 

An Opinion Matters poll, commissioned by Drink Wise Age Well, shows how the necessary restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus are seriously impacting the drinking habits of older adults in Northern Ireland. 9% of over 50s said alcohol is negatively affecting their mental health. Meanwhile, one in four said the pandemic means they’re more likely to drink alone and 15% said they normally drink more than ten units when drinking. 

A recent study from the Centre for Ageing Better found 32% of people aged between 50 and 70 have been drinking more as a result of the pandemic. Meanwhile, data from the Office for National Statistics shows that people over 55 are most likely to drink at hazardous levels, with consumption among this group increasing in recent years while it decreases among younger age groups. With You’s research shows the scale of this issue looks set to increase in Northern Ireland over the next few weeks, with more than three in four over 50s saying they are likely to drink the same or even more due to a second national lockdown.

The poll also showed how the over 50s drinking can impact their loved ones. More than one in four (27%) people in Northern Ireland with parents who are over 50 are concerned about at least one of their parents' drinking habits since March. And nearly a quarter (23%) of the same group think their parents are likely to drink more as a result of a second lockdown. At the same time, more than one in four (26%) over 50s in Northern Ireland said they would not ask anyone for help in relation to their drinking. 

To help more older adults access the support they need, With You is launching a new over 50s-specific alcohol helpline using learning from its Drink Wise Age Well programme, which is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. It is a free, national helpline, made possible thanks to National Lottery players, running seven days a week where you can speak to a trained advisor for confidential advice, information and support to anyone aged 50 or over who may be worried about their drinking. Just call 0808 8010750 or visit www.addictionni.com for more information.

Alex Bunting, Group Director of Addiction NI's Addiction and Mental Health Services, one of the Drink Wise Age Well programme partners, said:

“We know that life changes such as bereavement, retirement and a lack of purpose have led to older adults drinking more in recent years while younger generations are drinking less. Nearly 80% of over 50s we work with drink at home alone, hidden from view. 

“It’s clear from these findings that the necessary coronavirus restrictions have exacerbated these issues whilst having a big impact on older adult’s mental health. Many older adults are unable to see their loved ones or friends and are drinking more as a way to cope with increased loneliness, isolation and anxiety. As people age, their bodies find it harder to process alcohol, so the number of people over 50 who are binge drinking at the current time is really alarming. The impact of this will ripple through families as well as support services and the NHS. 

“Across our whole society, only one in five dependent drinkers are accessing support, with older adults often facing additional barriers to coming forward. Our work shows over 50s are most likely to reach out to a service that’s specifically aimed at them. That’s why we are launching this helpline. To anyone 50 or over who’s concerned about their drinking, give us a call. You’ll speak to someone who understands what you’re going through and can support you to make healthier choices that will benefit all parts of your life.”

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