Drink Wise, Age Well partnership published their first State of the Nation Report in January 2016. The report found that in the over 50s population there was often a complex relationship between alcohol, employment and retirement. The programmes theme for 2016 is Employment, unemployment and retirement, and in June, an Inquiry session was held on each of these three areas. Expert witnesses were invited to share their expertise and experiences, and an invited audience were able to ask questions to any of the speakers. The findings from the three Inquiry sessions will inform the next State of the Nation Report, published later in the year.
Inquiry 1: Alcohol and over 50s out of work and seeking employment There was a general consensus that the over 50s population faced specific challenges when seeking employment, which are only exacerbated if they drink heavily. These specific challenges included attitudes from some employers who see no value in hiring older workers, and out of date skills, which means that over 50s often do not have the necessary skill sets to find other work. The speakers also highlighted the disproportionately high number of ex-servicemen struggling with both employment and alcohol problems and how long-term drinking habits and long-term unemployment can lead to social isolation and low feelings of self-worth, which exacerbate both issues.
Inquiry 2: Alcohol and over 50s currently in employment This Inquiry addressed the challenges faced by over 50s at risk from alcohol-related harm who were in employment. The Inquiry heard from a range of individuals including an ex-service user who spoke of his relationship between alcohol and work who cited employment as the single most important factor in his recovery. Those at risk from alcohol related harm may also have significant barriers to finding work, including criminal convictions and a poor credit history. The Inquiry also raised further points: • There is a significant trend of high levels of alcohol consumption amongst professional women over 50, from higher socio-economic backgrounds.Employees over 50 are often in managerial positions, which can increase work-related stress. • Whilst cultures of heavy alcohol consumption during work have largely decreased in recent years, there remain many sectors, particularly professional sectors, where excessive alcohol consumption is ‘part of the job’. • Whilst many large global companies have good workplace health programmes, many SMEs do not, often due to limited resources.
Inquiry 3: Alcohol and over 50s transitioning to, or currently in, retirement Retirement is one of the most significant life transitions a person goes through, and the role alcohol can have in retirement is important. The Inquiry heard the findings of a recent qualitative study which looked at alcohol use during retirement. It was highlighted that most people in the study drank moderate amounts of alcohol, and it can often play a positive social role in retirement. People at a higher risk from alcohol related harm can often have a complex relationship with alcohol, and strategies to reduce harm must be similarly nuanced.
Further points raised from the speakers included: • For retired people who are drinking harmfully or recovering, volunteering can play a positive role in keeping busy and giving structure to the day. • Certain groups of retired people who are at risk from alcohol-related harm are particularly hard to reach, including older South Asian men and older LGBT people. • Alcohol is often used as a respite for older retired carers. The International Longevity Centre are inviting submissions of written evidence for all of the three key areas; the deadline for submissions is Friday, 1st July 2016.