Healthy living

Middle aged invent excuses to avoid drinking

Middle aged invent excuses to avoid drinking Pressured to drink in social gatherings

Middle-aged people are being forced to concoct elaborate excuses to avoid being pressured into drinking too much by their friends.

New research reveals that the problems of binge-drinking and peer pressure are not confined to teenagers and students.

In fact, older adults can also find it hard to say ‘no’ in social situations, where others are insisting they quaff yet more beer or wine.

As a result, they are inventing reasons not to drink, such as driving to dinner parties or claiming to be on a ‘de-tox’.

The study, from the Medical Research Council, shows binge-boozing and drunken behaviour is not unusual among adults aged 35 to 50 – despite many claiming they have become more moderate drinkers with age.

The authors say the findings, published today in the journal Sociology of Health & Illness, suggest heavy drinking is not the sole preserve of young people.

And their findings are in line with Office for National Statistics figures, which suggest that the proportion of 25 to 44 year olds in the UK who drink more than the recommended weekly amount is similar to that among 16 to 24 year olds.

Lead researcher Dr Carol Emslie said: “When it comes to alcohol consumption, middle aged drinkers like to think they are ‘older and wiser’ than they were in their 20s.

“Initially, people in our focus groups stated they had moderated their drinking with age and singled out youthful binge drinking as a problem for society. However, as the discussions progressed, stories of recent heavy drinking contradicted these claims.”

She added: “In particular, older adults find it hard to say ‘no’ to a drink in social situations, with some feeling they have to make up excuses to deflect peer pressure. This shows how normalised heavy drinking remains in this age group, where not drinking is the behaviour that requires explanation, rather than the other way round.”

The research centred on eight focus groups of Scottish men and women who knew one another socially.

Half reported drinking over the recommended weekly alcohol limits - 21 units for men, 14 for women - and six were drinking harmful amounts – more than 50 units for men and 35 for women. A large glass of wine equates to around three units of alcohol, and a pint of strong lager can contain around four units.

Women admitted they often claimed to be ‘de-toxing’ or on a diet to avoid being constantly topped up with alcohol when in social situations, and both men and women said they had deliberately driven to a party or dinner to have an indisputable reason not to drink.

Professor Dame Sally Macintyre, director of the Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, said: “This intriguing study illuminates what is often an invisible problem. While excessive drinking in young adults often leads to visible disruption in our towns and cities, older adults tend to drink behind closed doors where their behaviour is hidden from society.”

This article was published on Mon 12 December 2011

Image © Olga Sapegina -

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