Friday 30 September 2016

'Secret alcoholism' of retirees with mix of too much time and money

Published 22/04/2015 | 02:30

Well-heeled retirees enjoying a cocktail of too much time and money are creating a secret world of alcoholism, leading medics have warned
Well-heeled retirees enjoying a cocktail of too much time and money are creating a secret world of alcoholism, leading medics have warned

Well-heeled retirees enjoying a cocktail of too much time and money are creating a secret world of alcoholism, leading medics have warned.

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Retired middle-income earners, usually those with guaranteed well-paying pensions, are now a high-risk group for heavy drinking.

Dr Colin O'Gara, consultant psychiatrist at St John of God Hospital, said some men "grow out of binge-drinking early in adult life'', only to dramatically increase their intake when they retire.

A dangerous mix of "too much time and disposable income" can prove highly dangerous for some retirees, he warned.

He also stressed the importance of this group having hobbies which will keep them occupied on a daily basis.

"A lot of men find they have very few other interests when they no longer have the focus of a working life.

"Once they hit retirement they can feel lost and simply don't know how to fill out their days.

"This is when having a wide range of interests is importance.

"But if their sole interest was work, it can lead to many difficulties when trying to adjust to changed circumstances.

"People need to think through what they're going to do each day - otherwise alcohol can be used to fill what could be a growing void."

He also warned "strong environment factors", such as increased socialising, can increase the risk of alcohol dependency in older people.

"Generous disposable income, combined with time on their hands, are huge factors for many men and their later life alcohol consumption," he told the Irish Independent.

"I also wouldn't underestimate the loss of having a defined role - particularly in the case of some men.

"Many males have been very much tied up with their work, which they have regarded as part of their identity.

"Very often there can be a grieving reaction in retirement, and alcohol can be used to treat symptoms such as low mood and depression."

Meanwhile, Dr Garrett McGovern, a Dublin-based GP specialising in alcohol and substance abuse for more than 15 years, highlighted the risks of heavy "home drinking".

"We're seeing women between the ages of 40 and 70, and some are drinking up to two bottles of wine a night.

"What we find in this grouping is that they are often profoundly depressed and in a bad place psychologically.

"Their liver function is also becoming abnormal, their cholesterol is high, and basically they're running into serious trouble.

"This is more common than people think - and they're a very hidden part of the population.

"They're not falling around the place drunk, but they're drinking quite a lot most days on a continuous basis.

"Beyond a certain age their bodies aren't able to cope with alcohol in excessive amounts.

"Some have had an undiagnosed anxiety or depression they never got under control.

"But when they retire, and have more time on their hands, these problems come to the fore."

He said retirees often refuse to confront their problems - and their heavy consumption of alcohol is a private world often unknown even to close family members.

Irish Independent

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