Middle-aged sleepwalking into long-term health problems

Date Published

18th May 2018




It is important to remember that while we are seeing high levels of drinking among these so-called ‘better off’ middle-aged people, there are still higher levels of serious health harms among people who are less well off.

But the BMJ findings support those in a national survey we carried out giving detailed picture of UK drinking behaviours. Our Drinkaware Monitor 2014 showed that 45-64 year olds are more likely than 18-24 year olds to drink to harmful levels.

Impact of alcohol

Half of those middle-aged people who drink to harmful levels think they are unlikely to have increased health problems in later life; they’re underestimating the impact alcohol can have.

Findings which may surprise, given the assumption amongst many that other groups, such as young people, are more likely to put their health at risk by drinking to excess.

The UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines recommend that men and women drink no more than 14 units per week.

Regularly drinking more than this can cause short and long-term health harms such as liver disease.

Alcohol tolerance

Also, your body can start to build up a tolerance meaning you could become dependent on alcohol.

Regularly drinking above the lower risk limits can increase your tolerance to the short-term effects of alcohol but not to the strain it’s putting on your liver. As your tolerance increases, you’re more likely to drink more.

This habitual behaviour could also put you at an increased risk of becoming alcohol dependent.  Just because you don’t feel like you are drinking enough to get drunk, doesn’t mean you aren’t damaging your health.

This is one of the main reasons it’s important to give your liver a break by taking regular days off from drinking.

Also taking a break from alcohol can have the effect of “re-setting” your tolerance so it’s easier to cut back. Cutting back on alcohol can also have a positive effect on your overall health and wellbeing. It’s good news for your long-term health, weight, sleep patterns, stress and mood.

Regular days off

There are plenty of practical ways you can start to cut down; our website offers advice and practical tips to help you drink less alcohol.

Also, if you’re worried about how much you drink please take our self-assessment test. It’s a quick and simple way to understand more about the impact of your drinking.