Relatively little attention is paid to drinking among the elderly, while it has been known for some time that the number of problem drinkers among people aged 55 and 65 is increasing. In general, this problem is responded to in extremes. In other words, it is minimized: “You are not going to take away the pleasure of someone aged?” However, when a clear problem arises, moralization occurs: “At that age, they should know better.”

Alcoholism and older adults

  • During the past years, the percentage of daily drinkers in the age group 65+ appears to be increasing. About 1 in 4 of all Flemish people between 55 and 75 drink alcohol every day. According to the figures from the Scientific Institute of Public Health. Ten years ago this was only 1 in 8.
  • The 55-65 age group drinks the most problematic of all age groups: 15.6% of men drink more than 21 glasses per week and 9.2% of women drink more than 14 glasses per week.
  • These percentages are higher than in the younger age groups. The higher the education level and the income level of people aged 55 and older, the higher the percentage of daily drinkers. The number of ‘heavy drinkers’ (drinking 6 glasses at least once a week) also increases. The proportion of drinking women 65+ is also increasing.
  • Many elderly people also use psychotropic medication (tranquilizers, sleeping pills and anti-depressants). Older people staying in institutions use these more than others. Women use about twice as much of this medication than men.

Effects of alcohol on the elderly

At an older age you tolerate alcohol worse than at a younger age. That is for the following reasons:

  • The elderly have less body fluid and often a relative increase in fat.
  • In addition, liver and kidneys work less efficiently and physical resistance decreases.

As a result, the same amount of alcohol leads more easily to higher blood alcohol levels, lower tolerance and faster intoxication (with possibly more physical damage) in the elderly.

Greater health risks

Through more frequent use of medication such as: sleep and tranquilizers, antidepressants, anxiety inhibitors, anti-epilepsy agents, heavy painkillers and certain anti-allergy agents. These drugs usually have a narcotic effect. Alcohol will increase the narcotic effect. This reduces the concentration, reduces control of movements and creates a higher risk of dizziness and balance disorders. With more chance of falling and other accidents. The combination with medication can also promote fatigue, sleeping problems, depressive symptoms, disorientation and forgetfulness.
Blood pressure and heart problems .

Drinking alcohol very regularly or daily causes a higher blood pressure and associated problems. Conversely, drinking a lot of alcohol on one occasion can suddenly cause blood pressure to drop dramatically. Drinking alcohol can disrupt the effect of both blood pressure lowering and increasing medication.

Diabetes. Drinking alcohol can lead to a rapid rise in blood sugar. It increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Those who have type 2 diabetes must certainly adhere to the guidelines listed.
Conversely, drinking a lot of alcohol in one go on someone who has diabetes can lead to a hypo. People with diabetes who still drink alcohol should do so during meals to avoid the risk of a hypo.
More about alcohol and diabetes

High cholesterol. Drinking alcohol regularly increases cholesterol levels. Whoever has to deal with high cholesterol, should drink as little alcohol as possible. If you do drink, limit this to a maximum of two glasses per day and keep it alcohol-free for as many days as possible. If you take statins and drink too much alcohol, you risk side effects such as muscle complaints.

Other physical problems. Check with your doctor, especially when you need to take medication. The effect of some medicines may decrease or increase after drinking alcohol. Just like alcohol, most medicines must be broken down by the liver. This, therefore, forms an additional burden on the liver, with the result that some breakdown substances (which are sometimes even more harmful) stay in the body longer.

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