Alcohol is fast becoming one of the most common causes of illness in over-50-year-olds, according to an editorial published in The British Journal of Psychiatry today.

Author of the editorial, Dr Tony Rao, a consultant old-age psychiatrist, says specific services for alcohol-related dementia are being overlooked, and must be valued equally to services available for physical alcohol-related disorders.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown that nearly half of hospital admissions caused by drinking alcohol in 2015/16, were among those aged 55 to 74. Yet, according to Dr Rao, specialist clinical services for alcohol-related dementia – a fast-rising illness among the over-50s – are not given enough recognition or value.

The number of older people with alcohol-related dementia is increasing due to a potent mix of rising life expectancy and soaring rates of alcohol misuse. In 2013, alcohol became the sixth largest cause of ill health for people aged 50-69 – jumping from 16th place in just 13 years.

The editorial highlights the need to create specific clinical services in response to this alarming rise of alcohol misuse in the age-group often referred to as the Baby Boomers.

Lead author Dr Tony Rao, a consultant Old Age Psychiatrist at South London and the Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London said: “We can no longer regard alcohol as a harmless social lubricant, particularly in older people of the baby boomer generation.

“There is now increasing evidence to suggest that if you are an older person regularly drinking over 3 pints of beer or over half a bottle of wine a day for 5 years or more, you are at higher risk of developing problems with memory and the possibility of alcohol related dementia. If this addressed early enough, it is likely that there may be some improvement in brain function.

“With rising rates of alcohol misuse in baby boomers, we ignore these problems at our peril.”

To find out more, click here to access the full editorial ‘Addressing alcohol-related dementia should involve better detection, not watchful waiting’ Rahul (Tony) Rao  and Brian Draper.

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