Could more than three million older people in England be at risk of alcohol-related harm? A cross-sectional analysis of proposed age-specific drinking limits

Age Ageing. 2013 Sep;42(5):598-603. doi: 10.1093/ageing/aft039. Epub 2013 Jul 23.


Objective: to determine the impact of recently proposed age-specific alcohol consumption limits on the proportion and number of older people classified at risk of alcohol-related harm.

Design: nationally representative cross-sectional population data from the Health Survey for England (HSE).

Participants: adults with valid alcohol consumption data, comprising 14,718 participants from 2003 and 14,939 from 2008.

Main outcome measure: the prevalence of alcohol consumption in excess of existing and recently proposed consumption limits, plus associated population estimates.

Results: the number of individuals aged 65 or over and drinking in excess of daily recommended limits would have increased 2.5-fold to over 3 million in 2008 under age-specific recommendations proposed in a report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, equating to an at-risk population 809,000 individuals greater than found within the 16-24 age group during the same year. Suggested revisions to existing binge drinking classifications would have defined almost 1,200,000 people aged 65 or over as hazardous consumers of alcohol in 2008-a 3.6-fold increase over existing definitions.

Conclusion: age-specific drinking recommendations proposed in the Royal College of Psychiatrists Report would increase the number of older drinkers classified as hazardous alcohol consumers to a level greater than found among young adults aged 16-24.

Keywords: adolescent; aged; alcohol consumption; alcoholism; older people; population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholic Beverages / adverse effects*
  • Binge Drinking / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult