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.