In depth: Why city’s middle-aged drinkers are a new worry

Hospital admissions for alcohol-related illnesses among over 40s are on an upward trajectory
Hospital admissions for alcohol-related illnesses among over 40s are on an upward trajectory

Figures show that more people in Sheffield are in need of hospital treatment because of the effects of alcohol - with those aged over 40 in the city developing greater problems than younger generations

More people in Sheffield are needing medical help because of the effects of alcohol - with middle-aged people in particular developing health problems because of drinking, figures have shown.

Undated file photo of a pint of beer as the cost of treating alcohol problems for middle aged people is 13 times higher than the bill for treating teenagers and young adults, a has charity said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday October 12, 2012. Between 2010 and 2011, the taxpayers' bill for the treatment of people aged 55 to 74 who were admitted to hospital for alcohol-related reasons was ?825.6 million - 13 times higher than the ?63.8 million bill for 16- to 24-year-olds, Alcohol Concern said. There were 454,317 middle aged people admitted to hospitals in England compared to 54,682 young adults. The research, conducted by the charity, also found that the cost for treating men was almost twice as high as the cost for treating women. The total cost of inpatient admissions partly or wholly attributable to alcohol was ?2 billion, a spokesman said. The charity released a map of alcohol-related health costs so people can see a breakdown of the number of alcohol-related deaths and the number of hospital

Undated file photo of a pint of beer as the cost of treating alcohol problems for middle aged people is 13 times higher than the bill for treating teenagers and young adults, a has charity said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday October 12, 2012. Between 2010 and 2011, the taxpayers' bill for the treatment of people aged 55 to 74 who were admitted to hospital for alcohol-related reasons was ?825.6 million - 13 times higher than the ?63.8 million bill for 16- to 24-year-olds, Alcohol Concern said. There were 454,317 middle aged people admitted to hospitals in England compared to 54,682 young adults. The research, conducted by the charity, also found that the cost for treating men was almost twice as high as the cost for treating women. The total cost of inpatient admissions partly or wholly attributable to alcohol was ?2 billion, a spokesman said. The charity released a map of alcohol-related health costs so people can see a breakdown of the number of alcohol-related deaths and the number of hospital

In total, 3,657 people in Sheffield required hospital treatment for a condition triggered by alcohol last year, according to statistics for 2015-16 issued by Public Health England.

This was an increase from 3,563 the year before, 2014-15.

Causes for the hospital admissions include liver damage, cancer, high blood pressure and strokes sparked by excessive drink.

Alcohol is known to cause seven types of cancer and is linked to more.

People can help themselves by drinking a bit less and avoiding binges

Meanwhile unintentional injuries such as road accidents, falls and poisoning linked to drinking are also included in the list of explanations.

A greater number of men - 2,107 - were admitted to hospital for reasons linked to alcohol consumption in 2015-16 than women, of whom 1,550 needed help from medics.

The numbers also reveal that drinking is in no way exclusively a preserve of the young.

The rate of hospital admissions for alcohol-related conditions among those aged under 40 in Sheffield is falling - 910 residents in that age bracket were treated in 2015-16, a decrease on the previous 12 months, when the number stood at 938.

However, 1,782 people aged 40 to 64 were admitted last year, with 965 over-65s taken to hospital because of an alcohol-fuelled condition.

In both cases this followed an upward trajectory from 2014-15; among over-65s there were nearly 100 more admissions.

Greg Fell, director of public health at Sheffield Council, said alcohol ‘remains a significant health issue’.

“The patterns we’re seeing in Sheffield, where older people are particularly affected, mirror the rest of the country,” he explained.

“It’s sadly the case that there are real inequalities in terms of alcohol-related harm, with those from the poorest areas being the hardest hit.”

He added: “Our alcohol strategy, running from 2016 to 2020, identifies issues and plans actions across five areas. These are health and well-being, treatment and recovery, the night-time economy and licensing, crime, and support for particularly vulnerable people and communities.

“We want more people to access support, so we’ve made this easier, and people can now refer themselves without needing to go through their GP. There are also no waiting times, which means someone can walk into Sheffield’s alcohol service and be seen the same day.

“But it’s also about helping people recognise they have an issue and providing them with the right information to help them to make healthier choices.

“We’re working with GPs and other services to encourage earlier screening, so support can be offered to people affected by alcohol earlier on. We’re also looking at ways to help people track their alcohol use, and understand the impacts that it can have.”

A programme called Drink Wise, Age Well is being piloted in Sheffield, with the specific aim of tackling unhealthy drinking among those aged over 50 in the city.

Until recently, most health promotion and prevention initiatives were targeted at young people, and binge drinking - however, the group believes that often the most harmful drinking takes place behind closed doors, in people’s homes, rather than in pubs and clubs.

Emma Wells, the project’s leader, said preconceptions had a role to play in stopping people from getting help.

“Existing attitudes and beliefs about ageing and alcohol can prevent people from getting the right type of advice and seeking support.

“Later life can be full of opportunity and new beginnings, but it can also be a time of changes that can be difficult to adapt to.

“Drink Wise, Age Well is working alongside local communities in Sheffield to increase awareness of alcohol and how it affects us as we get older, provide support for people who want to cut down their drinking and set up a range of activities and events to help people stay active, meet new friends and learn new skills.

“We also have a range of volunteering opportunities available for those who want to become more involved.”

The programme has learned that while younger people may feel the effects of alcohol more acutely, through drunkenness or injuries, those in middle age and later life are more prone to chronic illnesses brought about by the cumulative impact of harmful drinking.

Depression, poor sleep, memory problems and trouble with relationships are also risk factors heightened by alcohol.

“People can help themselves by drinking a bit less, drinking less often and avoiding binges,” said Mr Fell.

Anyone worried about their, or someone else’s, alcohol use can talk to someone confidentially at START - Sheffield Treatment and Recovery Team - by calling 0114 226 3000, or visiting 44 Sidney Street, using the Matilda Street entrance, between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

For information about Drink Wise, Age Well activities happening locally, or to access support, call 0800 032 3723 or log on to Drink Wise, Age Well for details.

Stigma and shame around drink problems

Drink-related hospital admissions for those aged over 65 more than doubled for men and women from 2002 to 2010 nationally - but knowledge about the risk of home posed by alcohol remains low among older generations, according to Sheffield’s Drink Wise, Age Well programme.

A survey carried out by the project found that three-quarters of respondents aged over 50 were unable to identify alcohol units and lower risk guidelines.

To keep health risks at a low level, men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units - six 175ml glasses of 13% volume wine, or six pints of 4% volume beer - in a week.

One in four respondents said they would not tell anyone if they needed help, while more than half aged over 65 believed people with a drink problem had themselves to blame - suggesting shame was preventing some individuals from seeking support.