Reducing harm caused by alcohol

Alcohol and older people

Older people tend to drink less alcohol than younger people, but a significant minority are drinking in a way that is harmful to their health.

Around 1 in 3 men and nearly 1 in 6 women in Scotland aged over 65 drink more than the low risk guidelines of 14 units of alcohol per week.

Older people need to be particularly careful with alcohol because we become more sensitive to alcohol's effects as we age.

Specific risks for older people

  • Alcohol can interfere with medication. GPs and pharmacists can advise whether it is safe to drink alcohol when taking medication.
  • Memory, balance or coordination difficulties can be made worse when drinking alcohol. This can lead to falls and accidents.
  • Drinking alcohol actually leads to heat loss in the body, increasing the risk of hypothermia when a lot of alcohol is consumed.
  • Older people may forget to eat properly if they are drinking too much.