As we get older we face a multitude of different health problems and many lead to medication. The chronic illnesses associated with ageing mean that we have no choice but to keep on living while dealing with whatever treatment we’re prescribed. But sometimes to give ourselves the best chance of health, we need to alter our lifestyle too and right now, over 60s aren’t.
The Australian Ageing Agenda released a statement on Friday announcing that a program to introduce drug and alcohol screening of older people in the community would help to build awareness of a problem many over 60s face. While it is seemingly harmless to have a glass of wine or two a night (and studies tell us that it is “good” for us because of the antioxidants), if we’re not careful it could be very bad. And this has nothing to do with excess consumption.
The medications that older Australians take are likely to be impacted by alcohol and can cause adverse reactions. This coupled with the changes in body composition, metabolism and weakening of bones makes alcohol far more dangerous than we realise.
The screening test is being trialled with a group of older Australians in New South Wales and South Australia. The tool called the Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screen Test (ASSIST) will help people and their doctors to stay informed about their indulgent habits and align these with their health.
When someone has been drinking every day for decades changing the habit is unnatural and ill effects that it can cause often go unnoticed by the individual.
Previous studies from the National Centre for Education and Training on Addictions found that while younger Australians drink more in one sitting (binge drinking), older Australians are chronic drinkers and are more likely to consume alcohol alone and daily.
The dangers of alcohol especially in old age come down largely to mental health. Alcohol affects neurotransmitters that are required to reinforce good mental health. The common behaviour of reaching for a glass when we’re feeling down, stressed or anxious therefore doesn’t improve our situation and only perpetuates the poor mental health cycle.
Last week the Sunshine Coast Daily reported that 10-15 per cent of older Australians experience depression and a further 10 per cent experience anxiety. There’s also a significant increase in the suicide rate of men as they age.
The alcohol-screening test hopes to stop the cycle of alcohol fuelled health problems as we age.
Today tell us, how often do you drink? Have you stopped due to taking certain medications? Share your stories in the comments below…