Harmful drinking produces adverse health effects, prevents successful aging after the age of 50.

drinkingA new study published in the BMJ has revealed that people over the age of 50 are more at risk from the adverse health impact associated with harmful drinking. Harmful drinking has hidden health and social problems and prevents productive and health aging and was defined at drinking 22-50 weekly units for men and 15-35 units for women.

The research participants consisted of study samples from the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing (ELSA) and analyzed 9000 responses of those aged 50 and above living in England.

Successful agers are considered to be healthy, active, sociable and well off. Survey participants were asked about a range of potentially influential factors: income; educational attainment; self reported health; whether they smoked; diet; physical activity levels; whether they felt lonely or depressed; ethnic background; marital status; caring responsibilities; religious beliefs; employment status; and social engagement (civic participation, networks of friends, cultural activities).

“We can sketch–at the risk of much simplification–the problem of harmful drinking among people aged 50 or over in England as a middle class phenomenon: people in better health, higher income, with higher educational attainment and socially more active are more likely to drink at harmful levels,” said the scientists. “Our findings suggest that harmful drinking in later life is more prevalent among people who exhibit a lifestyle associated with affluence and with a ‘successful’ aging process,” they said.

The researchers suggest the explicit incorporation of alcohol drinking levels into a successful aging paradigm as harmful drinking may be a hidden health and social problem in successful older people.


José Iparraguirre. Socioeconomic determinants of risk of harmful alcohol drinking among people aged 50 or over in England. BMJ Open, 2015; 5 (7): e007684 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-007684

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