This week the Health and Social Care Information Centre has issued figures purporting to show that our older generations are suffering the frightening consequences of lives spent drinking alcohol to excess.
Apparently, the numbers of those aged over 45 who are admitted to hospital for alcohol-related issues has more than doubled in the past decade, with the steepest rises – over 170% – occurring in those over 60. According to research conducted by the University of Southampton, the primary cause is the cumulative effect of life-long drinking by the baby-boomer generation.
Commenting upon these findings, Julia Manning of the think tank 2020Health offered: “Middle-aged, middle-class drinkers are drinking much more than they realise. They are drinking more frequently, they are drinking stronger alcohol and they are using it as a common antidote for stress. On top of this is the cumulative effect of drinking over the years. We have become ever more rebellious in recent decades and it makes me wonder whether there has been a significant culture shift away from taking responsibility and behaving like a grown up.”
I’m not sure that I buy into some of this alarmist rhetoric.
In my experience – insofar as I can remember that far back – my parents’ generation seemed to drink just as much as mine ever did.
Furthermore, they used to do so in ways that – with our modern 20/20 hindsight and public awareness of ‘good practice’ and health implications generally – were potentially far more hazardous. Before 1970, most supposedly responsible adults would think little of imbibing alcohol freely at cocktail or dinner parties and then jumping into their cars and driving home if not three, at least two, sheets to the wind.
In those days, cigarettes and alcohol were the props that made the world go around.
One of the ironies of advancing medical science, and resulting increased longevity amongst the human population, is the fact that many of us are now succumbing to diseases and conditions that bothered previous generations far less, simply because they didn’t live long enough to get them.
As an over-60 myself, I have to confess to having a mixed reaction to these latest, damning, statistics.
Part of me – as no doubt the researchers intended – is concerned enough to worry about them and their future implications. And yet another part of me, reacting to the news that my many decades of drinking may have effectively damaged me beyond repair anyway, is thinking “Well, there’s bugger-all I can do about it now, so I may as well carry on …”
Stiff drink, anyone?