Thursday 8 August 2013

Respect your elders

From The Times...

Ageing, you might think, comes with its own inherent long-term health risks - death, for one thing.

There is a 'but' coming here, isn't there? What could it be, this fate worse than death?

But a new study, funded by Age UK, has warned that too many over 65s are bingeing on alcohol and should be set lower safe drinking limits.

Yes, it's another government-funded charity commissioning research to fuel the nanny state.

A team of academics from Newcastle and Sunderland Universities have published a paper which looked into why elderly people are drinking at hazardous or harmful levels. The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that many older people do not recognise they are heavy drinkers because they do not see themselves as dependent on the bottle.

The academics interviewed focus groups with 53 men and women aged 65 to 90. The aim was to find out the reasons why so many of people in that age group continue to drink to unhealthy levels, and to reveal their attitudes to alcohol.

And what were the findings?

The answer it seemed was simple, they did not care.

Right, that's that sorted then. End the article and turn the page. There is nothing more to say. They like drinking and they don't care if it's unhealthy. Case closed.

And when advised it would be better for them to drink less questioned the health practitioners.

Ha, ha! Good for them.

One woman drank a bottle of wine every day, about 63 units a week, but said she did not have a problem because it did not have a big effect on her.

“If somebody found me in the corner drunk that would probably shock me into stopping but that has never happened,” she said.

You tell them, dear.

Others who were interviewed talked of having “skinfuls”, or five or six pints, and thought there was no problem with that because they did not suffer any immediate adverse effects that they linked to drinking.

Quite right too. Their lives, their choice. Is it too much to ask for people who are in their 70s and 80s to be treated like adults?

Apparently it is...

Dr Graeme Wilson, at the Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, who led the study, said: “Many older people are drinking to a level that is having a long-term impact on their health, even if the damage they are doing is not always immediately apparent.”

And when, prey, are these "long-term" effects finally going to hit them? When they're 100? 120? 150? Is it any wonder these elderly people "do not care"?

Previous studies have shown that older drinking is a worsening problem.

No, they haven't. They've shown a rise in drinking amongst old people. That's only a problem if you believe that older people drinking is problematic per se. I think it's wonderful that pensioners have the disposable income to be able to afford pleasures in life such as drinking.

In England, 28 per cent of men and 14 per cent of women over 65 now drink alcohol more than five times per week.

They did a few years ago. Rates have been dropping more recently, as they have amongst every age group. The latest data is here, shown under the subheading 'Decline in frequent drinking and heavy drinking'.

As the Office for National Statistics explains, older people drink little but often. In other words, responsibly.

It was noted earlier that older people tend to drink more frequently than younger people. However, among both men and women, those aged 65 and over were significantly less likely than respondents in other age groups to have exceeded 4/3 units of alcohol on at least one day.

...Similar patterns were evident for heavy drinking (exceeding 8/6 units) older people were less likely to drink heavily than younger people: 6% of men aged 65 and over had drunk heavily on at least one day during the previous week, compared with 19% of men aged 45 to 64, 24% of men aged 25 to 44 and 22% of men aged 16 to 24. Among women the estimates for the corresponding age groups were 2%, 12%, 16% and 18%.

Very heavy drinking (exceeding 12/9 units) was most prevalent in the 16 to 24 and 25 to 44 age groups. In the 16 to 24 age group, 13% of men and 12% of women drank more than 12/9 units, and 13% of men and 9% of women did so in the 25 to 44 group. In the 45 to 64 and 65 and over groups the estimates were 9% of men and 6% of women and 2% of men and 1% of women respectively.

You can see why The Times (or, more likely, the press release handed to The Times) chose to focus on frequency of drinking rather than quantity drunk. The number of pensioners who drink heavily is tiny. (See The View from Cullingworth for more lies from the state-funded temperance lobby.)

And so far public health messages about harmful drinking have not been as effective for the older age group as they have for the younger.

Older people saw drinking alcohol as a positive way to relax and be sociable with friends and family.

To the re-education camps with them! Don't let them back out until they see alcohol as an addictive carcinogenic drug for which there is no safe level of use.

Chronic pain, loneliness and bereavement were identified as likely to lead to heavier drinking in later life.

Fair enough, surely? If, God forbid, I live to ninety and some pipsqueak of a health researcher tells me to cut down on my drinking, I shall poke them in the eye with my walking stick. The biggest risk factor for virtually all diseases is age. For those who are elderly, every other risk factor fades into insignificance (which, perhaps, is why Leonard Cohen plans to start smoking when he's 80). It is no wonder that they "do not care" about the trivial health risks of drinking a bottle of wine a day. Rather it is a wonder that they don't drink more.

Dr Katie Haighton, also at the Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, said: “Alcohol interventions are not working for older people for many reasons."

As I have said before, the 'public health' movement is really a longevity movement. It's supreme goal is extending life expectancy. It has no answer for those who are already very old, it has no answer for those who do not want to grow old and it has no answer for those who are bored of life or just don't care.

Why can't they just leave them be? All the usual 'public interest' arguments against drinking fall flat when it comes to pensioners. Does it make them less productive? No. Does it lead to violence in city centres? No. Will it make them die young? No.

So what's the solution to the stubborn refusal of pensioners to take lectures from a bunch of nagging whippersnappers?

“We also think the Government really needs to start looking at lowering the recommended limit for alcohol consumption in those over 65.”

Yeah, that'll make all the difference to people who find the existing guidelines laughable, who "question the health practitioners" and who "do not care" anyway.

I doubt even the 'public health' lobby believes that reducing the guidelines will have any effect on behaviour. The intention is to move the goalposts, as they have with obesity, in order to produce future research showing a worsening epidemic of elderly drinking. This, in turn, will lead to calls for yet higher taxes and more restrictions on advertising and availability.

And so it goes on.


More findings from the study, as reported in the Daily Mail...

Others said being given a free bus pass meant they could drink more...

Tee hee. Those unintended consequences, eh?

Katie Haighton, one of the study’s authors, said GPs were loath to intervene, with many not wanting to deprive patients of enjoyment later on in life.

I'm pleased to hear it, and not surprised. This confirms my long held view that rank and file GPs are usually sound and sensible. It's the psychologists, sociologists and epidemiologists of the oxymoronic 'public health' lobby you have to watch out for.


Curmudgeon said...

In the words of Kingsley Amis, "No pleasure is worth giving up for the sake of two more years in a geriatric home at Weston-super-Mare."

Rach said...

I think they've picked on the wrong age group - these are people who can remember what this country was like before neo-prohibitionists took over and therefore more likely to give 'health researchers' pretty short shrift.

I'm certain my parents, both in their 70s and both fond of a drink or two, would have replied, 'none of your damned business,' when asked how much they drink.

timbone said...

I drink between one and a half and two and a half bottles of red wine a day. So that means that I am totally pissed all day and all my 62 year old bodily functions are showing signs of collapse and the inevitable early death. Er, no. I may have a glass or four of wine (large glasses) between about 12.30pm and 5.30pm. Of course, if I have to go out in the afternoon, or have a gig in the evening, I do not drink until I get home. This is when it may only be one to one and a half bottles. I usually go to bed at about 2am. On a normal day, after imbibing until 5.30pm, my next alcoholic drink will be at about 9.30pm. I have a blood test every six months, and so far I have no diabetes, no liver or kidney problems, and no cancer. So if you will excuse my language Chris, they can fuck off.

Miles D said...

I took great delight in telling a teetotaller with these opinions where to get off. Nosey ******.
Another advantage is that once you get to our age is that some of us can afford to either buy the pub (and put a manager in), or a house next door to it!

Unknown said...

My 84 year old father, who has just been diagnosed with bowel cancer but who, after initial treatment, is pretty well, was told by his GP last week that having a pint with a whisky chaser every night was good for him. My opinion of the man went up many notches.

Ivan D said...

Almost inevitably, the BBC could not resist publishing this rubbish despite its increasingly ridiculous claim that it takes into account quality of work and standard of publication as part of the editorial process.

Although I question why this non-story appeared I can at least commend the BBC for quoting Paul Green of SAGA:

"Whilst sensible drinking is sound advice, nannies don't need the nanny state telling them what to do.

"Our own research amongst almost 1,000 over-50s shows that they tend to drink less than 10 units of alcohol a week, much less than the recommended 14 for women and 21 for men."

Quite right Mr Green. I suppose a man in his position isn't allowed to say "fuck off". Pity.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

I am led to believe the study was based on the drinking habits of fifty people...
Plan to do a post on it when I have researched more and will link to here.
Anna :o]

jredheadgirl said...

"If, God forbid, I live to ninety and some pipsqueak of a health researcher tells me to cut down on my drinking, I shall poke them in the eye with my walking stick."

Hehe...Now that gives me a good laugh. Thanks for that Chris:-)

Christopher Snowdon said...


53 interviewees, I believe. Looking forward to you post.

Andrew said...

But, but, but, older people need to live longer so they can hear the latest "brilliant" anti-drug "reasoning" and happy statistics, which will give them even more incentive/courage to live longer so they can be deluged with even more "reasoning" and will thus die happier!

Oh forget it.