PROBLEM drinking is rising among Ireland's over 50s – while nearly eight in 10 of this age group are either overweight or obese, according to a major study.
One in three of the older generation is now obese and another 44pc are overweight, increasing their risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Abuse of alcohol is harming their health and is now an issue for more than one in five men in this age group, up from 17pc in 2010.
The extent of drinking among older women is also revealed with 11pc now saying their consumption is too high, the research shows.
The findings are disclosed in the second report by the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), a national study of more than 8,000 people aged 50 and over in Ireland.
It follows information collected between April 2012 and January 2013 and tracks how the lives of this age group have changed since they were last interviewed in 2009 and 2010.
Dr Anne Nolan, research director, said drinking was regarded as a "problem" if people answered yes to two or more questions relating to alcohol.
"It declined with age and there is a significant drop around retirement whether it is due to less stress or reduced income," she added.
The report points out that despite the background of "austerity" which marked recent years, the over-50s generally report a high quality of life.
As many as 44pc regard their health as "excellent" or "very good". But several danger signals have emerged with more than a third having high blood pressure and nearly one in 10 diagnosed with diabetes.
Obese men had a higher prevalence of heart attacks while for women it was associated with angina.
The proportion of adults reporting low levels of physical activity increases with age, and one in two of the over-75s are not taking enough exercise.
One in five in the youngest age group – 52 to 64 – smoke although this falls to to 9.3pc in adults aged 75 and over. An encouraging trend shows 16pc who smoked in the first survey had given them up.
Arthritis affects more than half of those over 75 and there was a high rate of falls reported as 19pc of men and 25pc of women had fallen in the past year. Almost one in 10 of the over-50s have had a fall which needed medical treatment.
The principal investigator, Prof Rose Anne Kenny, professor of medical gerontology at Trinity College, said the report "has demonstrated strong associations between obesity and diabetes and cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, angina and heart attacks. The high prevalence of obesity and associated chronic disease is a cause for concern".
Health Minister James Reilly also said that he was "struck by some worrying trends".
"They remind us that obesity is a lifelong issue and one that will require sustained and targeted interventions across all age groups and into the years ahead," he said.