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Older women want their wine

Time:2019-01-31 01:16wine - Red wine life health Click:

Norway the elderly Womens health Alcohol Alcohol Consumption

Older women want their wine

A glass of red wine is said to be good for the hearts of middle-aged people. But there are no documented health benefits from alcohol in the elderly. (Photo: Colourbox)

Many people in their 50s to 70s now drink a half bottle of wine several times a week. The biggest jump in alcohol consumption has been among women.

This revelation was made in the Norwegian Lifecourse, Ageing and Generation Study (NorLAG), where researchers followed roughly 3,500 persons over the age of 40 for a five-year-period.

“Although few will develop alcohol problems, with such high shares of big consumers we can expect an alarming increase in alcohol-related disorders. This can be challenging for the future’s public health and care services,” says Britt Slagsvold.

She is one of the authors of a new report from the Norwegian social research institute NOVA, which presented the study.

“On the whole, middle-aged women were the ones who increased their consumption the most during the five-year period, even though men still drink more.”

Women in their 50s

In the age group 50–59, 12.1 percent of the women were drinking a half bottle of wine or its equivalent at least two or three times a week. This share is four times higher than among women aged 30-39. 

The percentage of men aged 60–69 who drank that much was 16.7. Only half as many men aged 30-39, just 8.5 percent, drank that much that often.

But real alcohol consumption was probably much higher than what was reported to researchers.

Other studies show that when people are asked how much they drink, they generally imbibe much more than they admit. Such underreporting, as it is called, is generally greatest amongst people who drink relatively much, Slagsvold says.

Older women want their wine

Middle-aged women are increasing their alcohol consumption the most, according to Britt Slagsvold, a researcher at NOVA. (Photo: NOVA)

“People don’t remember. Or perhaps they don’t want to remember or divulge the quantities they drink.”

Better surveys of the young

We know a lot about the drinking habits of teens and young people. But relatively little research has been conducted on alcohol consumption in age groups that have been buying alcohol for decades without being asked to show any ID.

Research reports published in recent years in Norway and the other Nordic countries show the same tendency.

HUNT, the longitudinal population health study in Nord-Trøndelag County, is among them. It shows an increase in alcohol consumption in the county is highest among the elderly, both with regard to total consumption and frequency of drinking. Women are also a predominant factor here.

While old ladies used to tend to be complete teetotallers, now it’s not so easy to find a grandmother who says no to a glass of red wine.

Isn’t red wine healthy?

Newspapers and magazines are apt to tell us that “new research shows” it is healthy to have a glass of wine now and then. Alcohol is said to dilute the blood, reducing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain types of strokes.

Terje Knutheim, a psychologist at Borgestadklinikken, a resource centre for drug and alcohol problems in Skien, Norway, is an expert on elderly Norwegians’ use of alcohol. He also rejects much of the positive news about the benefits of a little wine.

“If you look critically at these studies, the positive effects of alcohol are very poorly documented. If they do offer any documentation, it mainly suggests that alcohol can have a certain effect on cardiovascular disorders among middle-aged persons. It doesn’t apply to the elderly,” Knutheim said.

“The elderly can probably benefit more from blueberry juice than from red wine,” says Knutheim.

Less natural mixer

Older women want their wine

Terje Knutheim is a psychologist at Borgestadklinikken, a regional resource centre for drug and alcohol problems. He thinks general practitioners should ask their elderly patients about their alcohol use. (Photo: Borgestadklinikken)

In general, the elderly of both sexes are more harmed by alcohol than those who are a bit younger. The main reason is that the relationship between body liquids and fats change as we age. This means alcohol has a greater impact.

“There are big individual differences, but you can say that we undergo a change in our balance of liquids and we have less ‘mixer’ in our bodies as we age. So we get higher blood alcohol levels all the more quickly,” Knutheim says.

Much happens to our bodies after the age of 65 to make us less tolerant of alcohol. Many elderly also use medications that do not mix well with alcohol. Knutheim thinks special warnings and recommendations should be given to older people.

How much is too much?

Knutheim also believes that medical doctors should be more forthright in asking elderly patients about their alcohol habits.

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