IOGT-NTO Sweden Highlights Health, Social Harm of Alcohol in Elderly
Using Science to Improve Lives
IOGT-NTO has released a new report providing evidence for alcohol consumption and alcohol harm increasing in older people.
The report titled “Alcohol and Older People” is a collaborative effort between IOGT-NTO and the Swedish Society of Medicine, The Centre for Education and Research on Addiction (CERA) at the University of Gothenburg, the Swedish Society of Nursing and the Foundation Ansvar för Framtiden.
The report addresses older persons’ increased sensitivity to the effects of alcohol which, in combination with the ageing process, may increase the risk of disease and accidents, even at relatively low consumption levels. It describes the relationship between alcohol and various diseases and problems from which the elderly may suffer, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, and cancer. The report also highlights the significance of lifetime lifestyles for health in old age.
The report has been written by a group of some of the world’s best alcohol researchers: Sven Andreasson, Tanya Chikritzhs, Harold Holder, Frida Dangardt, Timothy Naimi, and Tim Stockwell.
According to the report the increased sensitivity to alcohol in old age combined with the ageing process can increase risk of disease and accidents.
For example use of alcohol increases risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, and cancer for older people. The harm is aggravated when alcohol is combined with prescription drugs, for example this combination can result in heightened risk of falls and injuries. The report also outlines various health and social challenges older people may face as a result of alcohol use. These challenges include, depression, suicide, road traffic accidents but also intimate violence and more broadly elder abuse.
Minimizing Alcohol Harm for Older Persons
Alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm, whether in the form of chronic disease or acute harm, has increased amongst Sweden’s elderly in recent years. The percentage of the population classified as elderly has increased and will continue to do so. Prevention of disease and harm, including alcohol-related disease and harm, is, therefore, very important – both for all those at risk and for the health and medical care sector.
The report provides a set of the following recommendations to prevent and reduce alcohol harm specific to older persons.
- While there is no safe limit for alcohol use, older persons who are using alcohol are advised to limit their use to 1 or less alcoholic drinks per day to reduce health risks.
- Those who don’t consume alcohol or who use alcohol occasionally are advised to not begin alcohol use, re-initiate alcohol use, and not to consume alcohol more frequently on the basis of health considerations.
- Older people suffering from health conditions including liver disease, peptic ulcer disease, cardiac arrhythmia, are driving, have cognitive difficulties, a history of falls or poor balance, or who take psychoactive or sedating medications are advised not to consume any amount of alcohol to mitigate further harm from alcohol in combination with these conditions.
It is important to note that IOGT-NTO worked hand in hand with older person’s organizations in Sweden including SPF, member of the AGE Platform Europe. IOGT-NTO aims to work with older person’s organizations including SPF in raising the findings of this report with the older person’s municipal councils established by Swedish local authorities.
Heart-driven as always IOGT-NTO’s goal is to maximize welfare of older person’s throughout the country with these efforts.
Alcohol consumption by the elderly is often unremarked by the health and medical sector,” write the leaders of the four organizations behind the report.
It is our hope that this report can help increase awareness of this issue, both amongst medical and healthcare personnel, and amongst other interested parties, and that it both provokes interest and stimulates discussion.”
*This research report is part of a series of scientific reports dating back to 2013, exploring various topics, such as alcohol and youth, effects of low-does alcohol use, alcohol’s harm to others, alcohol and cancer, alcohol and violence, and alcohol and older people.
All other reports are available here.