Alcohol helpline launched after almost one in four over 50s are binge drinking at least once a month in lockdown

Mary Greener of We Are With You.

Mary Greener of We Are With You. - Credit: We Are With You

Almost one in four people aged over 50 in the South West are binge drinking at least once a month in lockdown, according to research. 

Figures released by drug, alcohol and mental health charity We Are With You, previously Addaction based in Weston town centre, shows how the necessary restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus are seriously impacting the drinking habits of older adults in the South West.  

Almost 13 per cent of over 50s said alcohol is negatively affecting their mental health. Meanwhile, more than one in four said lockdown restrictions have led to them drinking alone. 

A recent study from the Centre For Ageing Better found 32 per cent of people aged between 50 and 70 have been drinking more as a result of the pandemic. Meanwhile, data from the Office for National Statistics shows people over 55 are most likely to drink at hazardous levels, with consumption among this group increasing in recent years while it decreases among younger age groups. 

More than one in four people in the South West with parents who are over 50 are concerned about at least one of their parents' drinking habits since March and the same proportion think their parents are likely to drink more as a result of a second lockdown.

At the same time, nearly one in five over 50s in the South West said they would not ask anyone for help in relation to their drinking.  

To help more older adults access the support they need, We Are With You has launched an over-50s specific alcohol helpline using learning from its Drink Wise Age Well programme funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.  

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It is a free, national helpline running seven days a week where people can speak to a trained advisor for confidential advice, information and support.

Anyone anyone aged 50 or over who may be worried about their drinking can call 08088 010750 or log on to www.wearewithyou.org.uk for more information. 

Andy is a service user who accessed support from We Are With You during the pandemic this year.  

He said: “I started drinking heavily a few years after leaving the army. I lost touch with family and friends and would drink to get through the evenings. 

“I’m not surprised there’s been an increase in people my age binge drinking at the current time. When the first national lockdown came in it gave me even more of a reason to drink at home. 

"I could knock back two bottles of wine in an hour easily. What else was there to do? 

“Then one day I just thought I’ve had enough. I made a few calls and was referred to a We Are With You service. I was pleasantly surprised that my worker, Lorna, didn’t judge me or label me an alcoholic. 

“She asked me what I wanted to achieve and concentrated on me as a person rather than the alcohol. We worked on being more sociable and filling my time in different ways.  

“With her help, alcohol doesn’t have the same hold over me anymore. I still have the occasional drink but nothing like a few months ago. 

“To the people out there going through a similar experience, my message is don’t give up. Changing your relationship with alcohol can seem like an uphill task but you’d be amazed at what you can achieve with the right support.” 

Mary Greener, age well legacy coordinator at We Are with You added: “We know that life changes such as bereavement, retirement and a lack of purpose have led to older adults drinking more in recent years while younger generations are drinking less.

"It’s clear from these findings that the necessary coronavirus restrictions have exacerbated these issues whilst having a big impact on older adult’s mental health.

"Many older adults are unable to see their loved ones or friends and are drinking more as a way to cope with increased loneliness, isolation and anxiety.

“Across our whole society, only one in five dependent drinkers are accessing support, with older adults often facing additional barriers to coming forward.

"Our work shows over 50s are most likely to reach out to a service that’s specifically aimed at them.

"That’s why we are launching this helpline. To anyone 50 or over who’s concerned about their drinking, give us a call.

"You’ll speak to someone who understands what you’re going through and can support you to make healthier choices that will benefit all parts of your life.” 

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