Should Over 60’s Quit Alcohol?

Mar 29, 2022
Source: Getty

Well, the answer you will be glad to hear is generally no.  

That’s the good news!  

In our 60’s and 70’s, we are less likely than the general population to exceed Australian guidelines of 1-2 units of alcohol a day.  The bad news is that the regular drinkers amongst us are the most likely to drink every day which can lead us to drink at levels that exceed lifetime risk guidelines.

Australian Guidelines recommend healthy adults should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week to cut the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury – with a maximum of 4 drinks per day. 

According to Roy Morgan Research, Australia’s consumption of alcohol is slightly on the decline. In 2006 73.5% of us were regular drinkers down to 66.3% in March 2020 although this rose to 69.6% in 2021 most likely due to Covid restrictions. We are yet to see what 2022 brings. 

Younger people are far more likely to binge drink than us seniors but there’s good reason for us to become more mindful of our consumption as we age.

As we grow older, we become more sensitive to alcohol.  After 65, lean body mass and water content drop and it stays in our bodies longer as metabolism slows down.

This puts us at higher risk for falls, car crashes and other injuries.  Women, in particular, are more susceptible to problems, due to our higher body fat content.

And alcohol can reak havoc with prescriptions and over the counter medications for diseases that we are prone to, like high blood pressure and heart disease.

I decided recently to cut back a bit as was finding it all too easy to reach for the wine at the end of the day and was watching my waistline expand accordingly.  

Alcohol is high in “empty” calories and for me personally meant I was more likely to reach for crackers and cheese or chocolate after a few glasses!

It also meant I was less inclined to exercise as frequently, and I often felt rather than providing ‘fun’ was making me feel a bit lethargic and depressed.

Around two-thirds of us like to drink regularly. There are a few triggers than can increase our likelihood to turn to the bottle for those of us who have retired or have reduced our working hours.

Some of us may have been in workplaces with a heavy drinking culture and take that into our new daily routines. Although for others, less stress in demanding situations equals less dependence on alcohol as a means of relaxation.

Retirement can lead to a loss of identity, purpose and direction and is bound to have consequences when our working life ends.

We also may have a newfound freedom from responsibility and as a result, have the ability to enjoy alcohol at any time during the day.

Of course, this does not apply to everyone and many of us have taken up new activities, hobbies or have grandchildren to enjoy and most of us are thankfully doing okay.

But loneliness and isolation, particularly after losing a companion or spouse or even a pet can be an issue. And grief after the loss of a loved one can prove a major trigger from which alcohol provides a welcome distraction.

Reduced activity due to lack of mobility or ill health can be a factor too.  Perhaps family members live further away leading to boredom or sadness.

Another contributing factor can be financial stress with shrinking pensions and savings at a time of more expensive medical bills.

Pain management is another potential issue.  Many over 60’s have chronic pain.  And we may drink more frequently as a form of pain management which can lead to a vicious cycle.

Alcohol can worsen other common health problems and aggravate a number of illnesses that disproportionately affect us over 60’s.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Sticking to the recommended guidelines and making healthy choices does allow us to enjoy the odd tipple.

One of the interesting developments in recent years is the rise of zero alcohol drinks.  The Australian zero-alcohol drinks scene is going from strength to strength.  I spoke to the owner of Sans Drink, Irene Falcone whose business is one of the most successful that has burst onto the local landscape.

“Non-alcoholic drinks have come a long way in the last couple of years and there are now literally hundreds of amazing options including Australian brands such as 1920 Wines. Customers tell me that since switching to alcohol-free drinks they have better sleep and more energy.”

For those that can afford it the potential benefits of having a healthy, adult tasting alternative in an alcohol prone society can be a good thing. And it is growing global trend.

I recently found a handy little app developed by the Cancer Council ‘Drinks Meter’ available for iOS and Android phones.  I can record my weekly consumption, calories consumed and the money I have spent.  That was enough of a shock to get myself into gear.  You can compare yourself to the average in your locality and is full of useful tips, and tools.  All completely anonymous and confidential.

So having realised I was a high average drinker, I’m now attempting to reduce my consumption.

The bottom line is, we are all of legal drinking age and our personal choices are entirely our own and none of us have to give up a pastime we enjoy.  

But I am looking forward to a healthier relationship with my wine!  

Leaving it on the shelf a few days a week and then thoroughly enjoying the drinks that I do imbibe.  Cadbury’s may notice a drop in sales but I’ll hopefully be spending my dollars on a nice new slim-fitting pair of pants instead!

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up