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Drink Wise, Age Well: Alcohol Use and the Over 50s in the UK

This report demonstrates that there is a pressing need for action to reduce alcohol-related harm in older adults across the UK. This first State of the Nation Report from the Drink Wise, Age Well programme is a comprehensive overview of alcohol and ageing today; how much older adults drink, why they might drink and why we need to act.

Drink Wise, Age Well is a major new programme of work which will address the challenges of alcohol-related harm in older adults. Based in five demonstration areas across the UK, but with learnings shared across the nation, we will look to raise awareness of the issue of alcohol-related harm among people over 50, change attitudes, combat stigmatisation, convey harm reduction messages and influence community norms about the use of alcohol. The programme will develop a body of evidence on how to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm in people over 50 which will inform future practice in the UK.

Informing this report is a major new survey looking at alcohol use in the over 50s population in key UK study areas. The survey, which had more than 16,700 respondents, is the first survey worldwide to specifically assess drinking behaviour in later life. The survey uses the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) score, a method of measuring a person’s risk from alcoholrelated harm which goes beyond simply measuring alcohol consumption. A score of 0-7 is classified as ‘lower risk’, 8-15 is ‘increasing risk’ and 16+ is ‘higher risk’. For more information on the AUDIT score, see page 11. It should be noted that the results published here are preliminary findings, and further analyses will be conducted on the survey in the coming months.

On the 8th January 2016, the four nation Chief Medical Officers proposed new recommended alcohol guidelines. Where we have been able we have taken this into account in the report, however all survey results were based on the previous alcohol guidelines set in 1995, as set by the Department of Health.