Northern Ireland

Alcohol misuse among over 50s costs NI health service £125m

Person pouring wine into glass Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The study was commissioned by the advice and support program Drink Wise - Age Well

Alcohol misuse among people over 50 in Northern Ireland is costing the health service £125m per year, according to a report by Queen's University Belfast.

It comes as the number of alcohol-related deaths in NI reached the highest since records began in 2001.

The largest number in deaths in 2017 was among those aged 45-54, closely followed by those aged 55-64.

In May, coroner Joe McCrisken said the number of officially recorded alcohol deaths was the tip of the iceberg.

Meanwhile in March, leading liver consultant Dr Roger McCorry voiced concerns over the growing number of women dying from alcohol-related diseases.

The study, published on Wednesday, was commissioned by the advice and support program Drink Wise - Age Well.

Joanne Creggan from the organisation told BBC NI's Good Morning Ulster programme the numbers were "shocking to hear, but not surprising for those working in the field".

"We have an ageing population and as we age we experience a lot of life events that may attribute to maybe a lot of difficulties in our lives," she said.

Alcohol-related deaths in Northern Ireland

YearUnder 2525-3435-4445-5455-6465-7475 and over
200719627756258
200806339469347
200908439271278
20100123310276307
201106527362278
201215517775305
201307277664302
201404287673299
20151642104794010
20161103190954715
20170103998974415
Source: NISRA

"As a result we may turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

"Those in the 45-54 age group may have missed a bit of education, as they were growing up in their 20s and 30s at a time when alcohol was becoming more acceptable and used sociably.

"This may all contribute to greater use and greater problems later in life."

'Mood enhancing drug'

The study coincides with the publication of a new charter for politicians and policy makers about how to reduce alcohol harm among those over 50.

Families and people affected by alcohol problems helped in the formation of the charter.

"Each individual and their journey has been quite different," said Ms Creggan.

"We probably haven't been treating alcohol with the respect it deserves.

"It's a drug and any other mood enhancing drug would be treated with a lot of different policies than alcohol has been

Alcohol-related deaths

In Northern Ireland in 2017

Source: NISRA

Ms Creggan added that the Calling Time for Change charter was a bid to look at how to help people cope with life events.

"We need better collaboration with service providers," she said.

"It can be very difficult if you're in your time of need to know what services are out there.

"People can be reluctant to come forward to services due to fear of being judged and possibly bad experiences before.

"But making services more easily accessible can really help."

She also said that while those aged over 55 are "least likely to come forward for services" they are "most likely to have success" if they do.

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