Evidence shows epidemic of alcohol: Baby boomers in the United Kingdom are consuming alcohol at levels that threatens to cause them great harm and even premature deaths
“Baby boomers” is the term for the generation of people born in the UK during the surge of births between 1946–1964. The baby boomers comprise around 25% of the population in the UK. One of the greatest social influences on baby boomers is evident in their alcohol use behavior – which had been shaped during teenage years when advertising for alcohol and tobacco was pervasive. Baby boomers today are between the ages of 50 to 70, and evidence shows that their adopted alcohol consumption behavior threatens to cause them great harm towards the end of their lives.
3 facts paint a grim picture
- Between 1992 and 2006, the average weekly alcohol consumption for people aged 45 to 64 (capturing the majority of baby boomers) increased by 85%, compared with a 50% increase in those aged 65 and over, and a 45% upswing in those 16 to 24 years of age.
- Between 2001 and 2014, alcohol-related deaths in England reduced significantly among men below the age of 60, but the alcohol-related death rate was significantly higher in both older men and women. E.g. for men aged 70 to 74 and 80 to 84, alcohol-related deaths rose by more than 150%.
- Alcohol-related admissions to hospitals have also risen fastest among the baby boomers, with admissions for mental and behavioural disorders attributable to alcohol now outnumbering alcoholic liver disease in people aged 60 and over in England.
Reasons for baby boomers’ alcohol problems
Older alcohol consumers usually do have more disposable income than other generations as they enter their retirement. And evidence shows that high socio-economic status is associated with a greater likelihood of using alcohol above recommended limits. Other aspects such as retirement, bereavement and social isolation may also be significant factors in why older people maintain or even escalate their alcohol use habits.
Older people usually are consuming alcohol at home in larger amounts spread throughout the week. Some baby boomers use alcohol steadily throughout the week and in addition indulge in other risky behaviors adopted in their younger days. Public health campaigns have so far not addressed older generations and might find it difficult to target behavior change in the homes.
Trying to change baby boomers’ behaviour and attitudes towards alcohol and other drug use is a big challenge because habits and patterns of behavior have been maintained and shaped through the course of their lives.