Last week I was speaking to my mum who revealed a sad family secret – my grandmother was an alcoholic. Mum didn’t like to use the word because it sounds too harsh, but that is what my late Grandma Louisa was…addicted to alcohol. After my grandfather came back from his duties as an airforce pilot in World War II, he was a changed man. He hardly spoke to my grandmother and was deeply affected by the things he saw. Back then, in the mid-40s, no one spoke of post traumatic stress disorder. It wasn’t even a recognised thing; you just got on with life. The alcoholism of my grandmother continued well into my mother’s 20s and 30s and it made my mum swear to never touch a drop of alcohol. She had seen what it did to her own mum – make her a shell of who she used to be.
The most recent news of alcoholism in over 60s has struck a chord with me as it is close to home. Alarming statistics have revealed that the amount of over 60 women with alcohol problems has risen 65 per cent in the last five years, with experts sayings the rise in older alcoholics is the result of the stay-at-home drinking culture we have. Sitting at home alone with a bottle has become more acceptable and even dealt with humour instead of concern, making it seem like it is not a problem when it clearly is for so many of us.
As supermarkets and online shopping offer more convenience for alcohol shoppers, there is growing alcohol dependency…especially in senior women.
So why are we reaching for so many glasses? Loneliness, boredom and isolation are the main reasons, with retirement being an instigator.
While men still make up two thirds of alcoholics, the gap between the sexes is narrowing with our nation’s approach to this reliance on booze. Dr Sarah Jarvis, a London GP and medical advisor to the Drinkaware charity, said a more relaxed cultural approach to drinking is dangerously well-suited to the older generation.
Our younger counterparts are more likely to binge drink (i.e. drink a lot in one session), whereas over 60 women prefer to drink every single day. Liver expert Professor Sir Ian Gilmore said, “Silver surfers have more time and they have more disposable money. But there is good evidence that right across the demographic the heaviest drinkers are the most price sensitive [and] availability is…a key factor. If you can shuffle down to the petrol station at 2am and buy a bottle, then that is key for those who drink at home”.
Alcoholism doesn’t just have detrimental affects on your mental health and liver, but it can increase your risk of breast cancer in your 60s (increase by 7 to 11 per cent for even unit of alcohol you drink a day), as well as your risk of high blood pressure, type II diabetes and heart disease.
All of this may sound shocking in writing but the reality is two-fold: some of us may not realise that this problem is so prevalent, and some may not realise they have an issue. Older women may not fit the stereotype of an alcoholic, but that is precisely why we need to get help if we suspect we or a friend is suffering.
To find out more about what constitutes a standard drink, click here
If you or a friend need support, you can contact the below organisations:
Alcohol & Other Drugs Information Service (ADIS)
Freecall 1800 131 350
1300 22 4636
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Support for depression, anxiety and related disorders
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Free alcohol and drug counselling online
What do you think about this issue? Do you think we have a problem as a society? Have you have problems with alcohol? Tell us your thoughts and stories below.