Baby boomer addiction to booze rose during lockdown… and even more people are having their first drink in the morning, study suggests

  • More of those aged 55 to 74 are drinking at levels ‘indicative’ of dependence 
  • Greater number having their first drink in the morning and feeling remorseful 
  • Psychiatrists warn some are drinking the equivalent of a bottle of wine a day

Lockdown has led to an increase in alcohol addiction among the baby-boomer generation, a study suggests.

More of those aged 55 to 74 are now drinking at levels ‘indicative of probable alcohol dependence’, researchers found.

A greater number are having their first drink in the morning and more are feeling guilty or remorseful about their habit.

Psychiatrists from King’s College London warn that some are drinking the equivalent of a bottle of wine a day.

Alcohol has acted like a ‘comfort blanket’ in the face of health and financial worries, social isolation and a lack of routine. But the strain of the past year has ultimately ‘driven them over a cliff edge’, they add.

More of those aged 55 to 74 are now drinking at levels ‘indicative of probable alcohol dependence’, researchers found. Pictured: Stock image

The experts analysed data on 366 patients aged 55 to 74 who had been referred to NHS mental health services. Half were referred before the first lockdown began and half after.

Drinking at probable dependent levels – more than 50 units a week – rose from 19 per cent to 28 per cent over this period. The number drinking four or more times a week increased from 30 per cent to 39 per cent.

And those drinking in the morning at least once a month to get over a heavy session the night before more than tripled from 2 per cent to 7 per cent, according to the study published in the Journal of Substance Use.

Lead author Dr Tony Rao said: ‘Alcohol has acted like a comfort blanket for some people during lockdown as they struggled with social isolation, health and financial worries, and a lack of routine.

‘In some cases this drinking has got out of control and driven them over a cliff edge, with a detrimental impact on their health.

‘Before lockdown, they may have been drinking socially with friends but are now drinking at home alone.

A greater number are having their first drink in the morning and more are feeling guilty or remorseful about their habit. Pictured: Stock image

‘If they were in the pub, someone may notice if they were staggering or drinking too much and suggest they don’t have any more. 

But when you’re drinking at home you don’t have those checks and balances, and it’s easier to slip into problematic drinking.

‘It may be that they have gone from having half a bottle of wine a day with their meal to having a whole bottle every evening.’

Dr Katherine Severi, chief executive of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: ‘Before the pandemic, so-called baby boomers were the heaviest drinkers so it is worrying to see an increase in alcohol consumption in this age group.

‘Older adults are at a much greater risk of developing alcohol-related chronic conditions such as breast cancer, bowel cancer and liver disease.’

She added: ‘With the health service struggling to cope with Covid-19, it’s more important than ever to have a healthy ageing population.’

Matt Lambert, from alcohol industry trade body the Portman Group, said the majority of baby boomers drank responsibly in lockdown.

But he added: ‘The findings reinforce the incredibly concerning pattern that a small number of people drinking at the highest level of alcohol harm appear to have further increased their drinking.

‘Emerging from lockdown our focus should be targeted on these vulnerable adults, and look at finding support for the complex, multifaceted issues which they face.’

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