26 Jul 2019

Boomer boozing a cause for concern, warns academic

7:57 pm on 26 July 2019

Boozy baby boomers are giving young people a run for their money when it comes to hitting the bottle.

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Photo: Wikimedia commons

A recent Lancet study predicts that New Zealand's per capita alcohol consumption is set to increase over the next decade.

For years, young people have been labelled as being at the heart of New Zealand's binge drinking culture, but times are changing.

An academic is warning in the next decade, people over fifty will be the group increasing the country's overall alcohol consumption.

Some Christchurch women are making no apologies for enjoying a drink.

"We usually have two or three glasses of wine a night, sometimes we don't have wine we have beer, but we do drink alcohol."

"We have half a bottle of wine, or maybe three beers a day, everyday of the week. You can see how happy we are, so we're people who drink and we're happy."

Public health lecturer Andy Towers said while people under 25 still have the largest number of hazardous drinkers worldwide, that number is reducing and showing no signs of stopping.

The rise in over-50s drinking was concerning because adults can experience greater harm from alcohol use than younger drinkers, he said.

"The older we get, the harder it is to process alcohol so it's more toxic for us. Then the older we get, the more likely it is that we have developed chronic health conditions that are alcohol related, or mix poorly with alcohol, and we're probably medicated as well for those conditions.

"Those medications, things for chronic heart disease or for mental health disorders, they can often severely interact with alcohol."

There is legislation to limit the amount of alcohol young people can access, but there are no measures in place to protect older people, Dr Towers said.

He suggested increasing the price of alcohol, reducing its availability and advertising could help curb the trend.

"This isn't going to be changed overnight, this isn't even going to be changed in five to ten years. But making those changes now, changes the culture of drinking in New Zealand and changes the norms."

For some older drinkers, its life's challenges that help them quit.

"I haven't smoked or drank since my triple bypass. I've had the occasional drink, I used to drink a can a night, but nothing serious."

Dr Towers said for baby boomers who want to have a happy and healthy life, that may be the best example to follow.

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