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We Are With You New Over 50's Alcohol Helpline

A recent survey by the alcohol charity We Are With You suggests a rise in high-risk alcohol consumption among over-50s amid restrictions imposed to control the spread of coronavirus. Twenty-four percent are believed to be high risk or possibly dependent, the Opinion Matters study of more than 1,150 people in the age group indicates. That is up from 17% in 2016. It also found that about 51% of those above 50 may be consuming alcohol at a level that could damage their health, with more than 4 million having in excess of four drinks in one sitting at least once a week.

Across the entire UK population, a study of more than 27,000 people by University of Glasgow, suggests a rise in people drinking more than six drinks in a single sitting at least once a week from 10.8% in 2017-19 to 16.2% during lockdown – with a rise in all age groups aside from those below 25.

To help more older adults access support, We Are With You is launching an alcohol helpline for over-50s funded by the National Lottery. It comes after research by the Centre for Ageing Better found that unhealthy habits may have become more ingrained since lockdown began, with 32% of 50- to 70-year-olds estimated to be drinking more.

Analysis of official data by the Royal College of Psychiatrists has also found that the prevalence of people drinking at higher risk was at 19% in June, up from 10.8% in February. It called for substantial investment in public health to prevent more lives from being “needlessly lost” to addiction following cuts to alcohol and drug services between 2013 and 2018.

 Julie Breslin, the head of the Drink Wise, Age Well programme at We Are With You, suggested that Covid had made functional alcohol dependence more possible because of people working at home en masse. “Nearly 80% of over-50s we work with drink at home alone, hidden from view,” she said. “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. As people age their bodies find it harder to process alcohol, so the number of people over 50 who are binge drinking at the current time is really alarming.”

Ian Hamilton, an expert in addiction and mental health from the University of York, said the findings correlated with recent research and that over-50s appeared to be at greatest risk of alcoholism during the pandemic. “The problem is: where do they go for support?” he said. “Treatment was already pretty difficult to get into before Covid, but particularly for over-50s I’m not sure how willing they’ll be to engage in virtual groups. I suspect they’d prefer something more personal or tailor-made, if they can get it at all.”

The helpline is staffed by expert advisors who are all trained, experienced alcohol workers. They can offer:

  • advice about alcohol’s impact on your health as you get older
  • tips for cutting down
  • help finding other support

The helpline is open:

  • Monday to Friday, midday to 8pm
  • Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 4pm

Call the over 50s helpline on 0808 801 0750

If you’re not ready to speak to an advisor You can take the over 50s alcohol health check to find out how alcohol could be affecting your health.

If you’d rather not talk on the phone, they also have a webchat service offering instant text-based help.

The chat is online:

  • Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm
  • Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 4pm

You can still message when they are closed. Someone will get back to you as soon as they open again.

Chat to us online

Is it confidential? 

Everything you tell the team is confidential. It won’t be share it with anyone else. The only time this might change is if we have serious concerns about your own or someone else’s safety.

How do I make sure my online chat is private?

To make sure your chat stays private, it’s best to use your own phone or computer rather than a shared one. If you don’t have your own phone or computer, you can use private browsing.

More help and advice

Orkney Alcohol and Drugs Partnership