Drink problems lurk behind closed doors

November 28, 1997

People who live longer do not have to fear a decrepit old age if they just keep active, say scientists

Alcohol misuse among the elderly may be a "hidden and undiagnosed" problem, say researchers at Southampton University.

Jim Barnard, of the university's Wessex Institute of Health Research and Development, said that alcohol agencies report that over 65s make up only 2 per cent of their case loads on average. But Southampton researchers looking at the number of alcohol-related admissions to hospitals for Southampton and South West Hampshire found over 65s made up 13.3 per cent of admissions.

"Our results indicate that there is a very significant population of older problem drinkers of whom only a tiny fraction are in touch with specialist helping agencies," said Mr Barnard, drugs misuse programme manager.

"Young people's drinking presents a more conspicuous problem for society, while elderly people are more often isolated and therefore potentially hidden. There may be more social stigma attached to admitting that a problem exists in the older age group. These and other factors may make it more difficult to identify and get help to older alcohol abusers," he added.

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