More Retired Women Are Being Treated for Alcoholism

By Victoria Kim 11/19/14

Over the past five years, there has been a substantial rise in older women recovering from alcohol abuse.

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More older women are being treated for alcoholism as old taboos about women drinking are fading. New Public Health England statistics reveal that more women are starting to drink heavily when they retire. In the last five years, there has been a 65% rise in the number of women over 60 treated for alcoholism.

This trend is attributed to a number of factors, such as being able to have alcohol delivered to the home. “I have seen many examples of alcohol being delivered to older people who are too damaged or impaired to go out and buy it themselves,” said Dr. Paul McLaren, a consultant psychiatrist with The Priory Group, which examined the data. “So they don’t even have to leave home to buy alcohol—supermarket delivery services will bring it straight to their door.” Other factors that drive retired women to drink are loneliness, boredom, and isolation.

“A common pattern is for regular drinkers, who have had their consumption constrained by the structure of working, tipping into harmful drinking in retirement,” McLaren said. “Many of the women I see are retired professionals who never had issues with alcohol in the past.”

Women over 60 now make up 9% of newly diagnosed alcoholics, which is up 6% from 2009. The number of younger women between the ages of 18 and 29 treated for alcoholism went down in the same period.

“Different groups drink in different ways—young people are more likely to binge, but older people are more likely to drink every day,” said Dr. Sarah Jarvis, a London GP and medical adviser to the Drinkaware charity. Men still account for two thirds of alcoholics, however, though experts say the gender gap is narrowing.

For older men and women, the increased health risk of drinking is a serious matter, McLaren noted. “Because older women don’t necessarily fit the stereotypes people hold about alcohol misuse, and because they often keep their drinking hidden, there just aren’t enough services out there to offer them the help they need,” McLaren said.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr