Page last updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
No need for reduced alcohol consumption in later life
Provided they adhere to the same guidelines on alcohol consumption as younger adults, regular moderate drinking poses no additional risks to the over 65s, and may bring health benefits, according to two studies from the Peninsula Medical School in the South West of England.

Researchers assessed the drinking levels of over 13,000 older people in England and the US and looked at the effects on physical disability, mortality, cognitive function, depression, and well-being. They concluded that moderate drinking is fine for the over 65s - and in some cases is better than not drinking at all.

Dr. Iain Lang, lead author of the two studies from the Peninsula Medical School commented “What we are saying is that current guidelines on drinking for the elderly are too conservative, and that a couple of drinks a day will do no harm, and will in fact have a more beneficial affect on cognitive and general health than abstinence.”

The research showed that those drinking on average more than one to two drinks a day achieved similar health results as those drinking on average more than zero to one drink a day. The worst results were in those who did not drink at all and in those who were heavy drinkers.

The shape of the relationship between alcohol consumption and the risk of disability were similar in men and women. Dr. Lang concluded: “The upshot of this research is that ‘a little of what you fancy does you good.’ Previous research has shown that middle-aged people can benefit from moderate drinking. These findings show the same applies to the over-65s.”

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