Adults aged over 45 are three times more likely to drink alcohol every day than younger people, the latest official statistics have found.
More than one in eight (13 per cent) of adults over 45 drink practically every day of the year compared with just four per cent of those under 45, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
As people get older they tend to drink more often - with over a fifth (22 per cent) of men aged 65 and over drinking almost every day compared with just three per cent of men aged 16 to 24.
Among women, 12 per cent of over-65s drink alcohol almost every day compared with just one per cent of young women aged 16 to 24.
However, younger adults were much more likely to binge drink than older people. Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of men aged 16 to 24 admitted drinking more than eight units of alcohol in a single day, as did 25 per cent of those aged 25 to 44. This compared with 20 per cent of men aged 45 to 64 and just seven per cent of those aged 65 and over.
Among women, 17 per cent of those aged 16 to 24 admitted drinking more than six units of alcohol in a single day, as did 19 per cent of those aged 25 to 44. But only 11 per cent of women aged 45 to 64 and just two per cent of those aged 65 and over confessed to a drinking binge.
Overall, more than half (54 per cent) of adults admitted drinking alcohol at least once a week, with 26 per cent drinking at least twice a week.
More than 13,000 people across Britain completed the Office for National Statistics survey.
Experts recommend three alcohol-free days a week. The Government recommends that men should not regularly exceed three or four units of alcohol a day and women should not go over two to three units.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) last year warned of the growing problem of older people’s drinking. Its report, Our Invisible Addicts, published last June, concluded that a third of older people with alcohol use problems developed them in later life - often as a result of life changes such as retirement or bereavement, or feelings of boredom, loneliness and depression.
Professor Tony Rao, a consultant in old age psychiatry and one of the authors of the RCP report, said: “This is such a hidden problem – older people drink behind closed doors. In my clinical practice I see many older people suffering the negative effects of their drinking – both physically and mentally. We see older people who have been drinking suffering falls and being admitted to hospital, only to be given the all clear and be sent home to begin the cycle again. We see others who suffer mental health problems such as depression or alcohol related dementia. There are a variety of problems but they are usually below the radar because they do not involve death or liver disease.”
Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: “These new statistics expose the hidden truth about alcohol and Middle England. Many over-45s drink daily, and those from professional or managerial households drink more, especially women.
”Whilst drinking is decreasing amongst younger age groups, the middle-aged middle classes are taking unnoticed risks with their health, increasing their likelihood of suffering illnesses such as liver disease, stroke and cancer.“
Chris Sorek, chief executive of alcohol education charity Drinkaware, said: “Although it can be easy to find excuses to drink after a long day, many people are unaware that they are putting themselves at risk by drinking more than they think. Regularly going over the unit guidelines has serious implications for your health, from disturbed sleep and weight gain to cancer, heart and liver disease – which has no warning signs.”