No Christmas spirit for you, grandpa

With Christmas nearly upon us shopping for those difficult last few presents will soon be entering its frantic, if not desperate phase. Much as you listened out for them, no hints at all from your partner. The children already have the latest smartphone and games console. And you haven’t a clue what to get your siblings or in-laws.

Oh well, at least grandad is easy. A refined single malt or vintage bottle of wine and he’ll be as pleased as punch.

Hold your horses, though. Health experts say you shouldn’t.

A new report suggests that, contrary to popular belief, the elderly are more likely to problem drink than the young. “Calling Time” was commissioned by the Drink Wise, Age Well programme that was established in 2014 to help the over fifties make healthier choices about alcohol as they age.

Published last month, it reveals that drinking in the UK has increased only in the 65-74 year old age group. Youngsters, it seems, are adopting healthier lifestyles, preferring the gym or sports field to the pub, and many have been brought up never to drink and drive.

The report notes that alcohol consumption is also increasing in older adults in the United States and other European countries, including Spain, Germany, Italy and Sweden. The World Health Organisation has identified alcohol-related harm among older adults as an increasing concern. Just as worrying is the population that will soon make the transition into old age. Today for the first time in recent history, says the report, drinkers aged 55-64 in England and Scotland drink more and are more likely to exceed the recommended weekly guidelines than any other age group.

And it’s mainly men who are at risk. A 2010 report commissioned by the Swedish National Institute of Public Health, besides concluding that binge drinking is much higher among elderly European men, also found that the rate of alcohol-related male deaths among the 60+ age group was more than double the rate for females. Elderly women consistently reported drinking less alcohol, both less frequently and in smaller amounts, than both elderly men and all adults.

In Gibraltar, the GHA’s 2015 Health & Lifestyle Survey indicated that nearly a third of women (31%) never drink alcohol compared to 17% of men. On average, men drink 7.1 units of alcohol a week while women drink 3.7 units.

Given the relatively low price of booze and our penchant for both the British pint and the Spanish vinito it’s hard to imagine our alcohol consumption record being any better than the UK’s.

So there you have it. This year, best get grandpa some nice woolly socks or a comfy pair of slippers.

I’m hugely looking forward to Christmas this year, the first that my 21-month old grandson will be old enough to properly enjoy. The look on his face as he opens his presents will be a memory to treasure. Nevertheless I can feel for the Sunday Times reader who said:

“I hope my family are reading this: do not deprive me of the anaesthetic that makes Christmas day tolerable”.

I’ll drink to that!

Author: gibsteve

Broadcast journalist for 31 years 20 of them as news editor with GBC, the local radio and TV station in Gibraltar. Now retired and finding ways to keep busy.

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