Wednesday 22 June 2011

Won't somebody please think of the old people?

I want to join the Pub Curmudgeon and Longrider in offering my scorn to the Royal College of Physicians Psychiatrists for this...

People over 65 should drink less, a report says

Recommended safe limits for drinking alcohol by older people should be drastically cut, according to a report.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists says people over 65 should drink a maximum of only 1.5 units of alcohol a day.

That is the equivalent of just over about half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine.

How softly we creep towards zero. It won't be long before there is 'no safe level' for anyone and the temperance lobby can really get to work.

It warns current advice - 14 units of alcohol for women and 21 for men each week - is based on work with young adults.

I believe this to be a lie. According to one who was there, the guidelines—now rebranded 'safe limits'—were "not based on any firm evidence at all. It was a sort of intelligent guess by a committee." If any evidence has appeared in the years since to make the guidelines anything other than an "intelligent guess", the RCP has not publicised it. I have never heard the claim that the limits were devised only with young adults in mind, and it's not as if they haven't had enough media coverage over the years to mention this little fact.

But even if you accept that the guidelines are not pure fantasy—in which case you may be drunk yourself—they were weekly guidelines, not daily 'safe limits'. A weekly guideline cannot be cut up into seven chunks and still carry the same risk. If you do that, you'll end up making preposterous statements like "drinking more than half a pint of a beer in a day puts old people's lives at risk." That is so plainly untrue that no old person is going to take the Royal of College of Physicians seriously. Welcome aboard, oldies.

The report says a third those who experience problems with alcohol abuse do so later on in life, often as a result of big changes like retirement, bereavement or feelings of boredom, loneliness and depression.

Well, you know what? If that's their situation, let them have a bloody drink, you miserable temperance swine. There is no public interest being served by having elderly people face loneliness and depression in a state of total sobriety. It really is—and I can't say this often enough—none of your business.

The editor of Saga magazine, Emma Soames, described the recommendations as "unbelievable".

"I think people will be infuriated by this. It's described as a public health problem, it's actually a private health matter."

Abso-fricking-lutely. It takes a descendent of Winston Churchill to tell it like it is. 'Public health' is a grossly misused term that is almost exclusively applied to private health. The infectious diseases have all but disappeared in Britain. Water and air is clean. Food is safe and labelled. At a time when we need a public health movement the least, the largest and much well-funded public health movement in history emerges.

There are, let's face it, only two things that are likely to cause poor health: bad luck and bad habits. You can't do anything about the first and the second is entirely a matter for the individual. Those who interfere in private behaviour do not deserve to be described as part of a public health movement. Call them anything you like—busybodies, wowsers, puritans, zealots, neo-prohibitionists—but don't go along with the charade that the private is public.


Curmudgeon said...

And a commenter on my blog says:

"...and I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that the Royal College of Psychiatrist bloke on the radio said we're in a situation like we were with smokers 20 years ago."

Mark Wadsworth said...

As you point out, this is a load of f-ing bollocks.

The key to getting really old is to have a routine - when they interview these really old people, they always say "I take the dog for a walk every day" or "I go bell ringing every day" or "I have a nice glass of brandy after every meal" or "I started smoking when I was 14 and I've never given up" or whatever.

Anonymous said...

How do you plan to spend your retirement .... before answering bear in mind that however much or however little you have responsibly contributed in the many years between leaving education and arriving at retirement, regardless of what work or service you might have provided, whether you served your country directly as a member of the armed forces or the emergency services or in some other public capacity, or simply did the old nine to five and paid your taxes, and your bills on time, and might have raised a family and might have for some time been "a grandparent" - often referred to as an indispensable role model and support for the generation below the generation below you - despite all that you are, in the eyes of some, and increasingly in more such eyes, still a child that needs hectoring and bullying and controlling - sometimes at the behest of bodies that claim to have set themselves up to guard your interests, all for your own good of course ... so do factor in the requirement to set aside one day a week in order to present yourself in front of your GP for the mandatory weekly drug and alcohol screening programme and the other one day a week to be spent at "mandatory personal health re-education classes" before finalising your plans ...

Paul said...

Well put Chris.

I too expect to face my share of age-related depression etc and while I already am aware of the great ameliator, alcohol, it only works if you have access to it.

The nannies want us to live safer (substitute less happily) so that we can live longer and then when we have achieved the "golden years" we are still expected to remain miserly with our pleasures.

Anonymous said...

>The nannies want us to live safer (substitute less happily) so that we can live longer

Quacks like it. More business.

Socialists like it. Can't ease taxes without freezing some pensioners.

Multiculuralists like it. Our 'ageing population' needs us to import foreign breeders.

I suppose the psychiatrists like it because it distracts us from all those nutters they can never cure. If I couldn't fix a leak I'd not call myself a plumber, but a handyman.

Anonymous said...

I am one of these 'older people' who drinks too much at home.

I used to have a couple of beers most nights down the pub with my mates.

Since the smoking ban hardly any of us go any more and so I stay at home alone and have quite a few beers every night.

Curmudgeon said...

Mark's point about having a routine keeping you going is a very good one. As I said on my blog, "In the last years of his life, my late father (who lived to 91) would have one pint or bottle or can before his lunch, and one small whisky or sherry before his tea, and that was it. But even that would have been 3 or 4 units a day."

Fredrik Eich said...

Maybe challenge 65 is in order. If some one looks under 65 and can not produce ID to show that they are under 65 they do not get served alcohol.

Anonymous said...

can`t help thinking of menckens old quote:

Whenever A annoys or injures B on the pretense of saving or improving X, A is a scoundrel.

Anonymous said...

Didn't someone describe Public Health as "the activist wing of the medical profession"?