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Boozing women in their 50s in Ireland are drinking more than youngsters

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Irish women in their 50s are now the country's biggest female problem drinkers.

They have fallen into the 'wine o'clock' trap, leaving their average alcohol consumption higher than younger drinkers, according to a new study.

Many women in their early to mid-50s have slipped into a "comfort zone" of heavy boozing every evening, downing an average of 4.9 standard drinks at home.

They have emerged as the age group in this country who are the highest drinkers among women studied in the Global Burden of Disease study in 'The Lancet' medical journal.

The research revealed Irish women of all ages rank seventh in the world for daily alcohol consumption, quaffing an average of three drinks.

However, when broken down into different age groups, the drinking habits of women in their 50s are particularly shocking.

Women in their 20s are drinking slightly less at an average of 4.4 units daily.

This falls to 3.6 drinks daily for women in their 30s.

Commenting on the problem-drinking patterns of older women, Dr Garrett McGovern, a Dublin addiction counsellor, said that, from his experience, a large proportion of them would drink at home in the evening.

"The vast majority are probably domestic drinkers who consume wine after work between 6pm and 10pm. A lot of it has to do with life's stresses and getting into a rut.

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"They come home from work and incorporate alcohol as part of what they do. Once you start that you can get addicted. A lot of women understand they are drinking too much but they are holding down their job and are in a comfort zone.

"They know the risks but they take them anyway. They would not be big socialisers."

'The Lancet' research was led by Dr Max Griswold of the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in Washington and it warned there is no safe limit of alcohol consumption. It pointed to the higher risk of diseases like cancer for heavy consumers.

The study revealed Irish men are drinking an average of 4.5 drinks a day. But men in their 50s are having an average of eight drinks a day.

Dr McGovern said he believes people who drink within the weekly limits of 11 units for women and 17 for men are not at risk. "People who truly manage their alcohol use don't have to worry about units at all. They will go some weeks not drinking anything," he said.

People should stick to drinking within weekly limits, spread out the consumption and not engage in a binge, he advised.

"As the number of units people drink increases, the risk rises," he added. He said there is a need to be "pragmatic" about the advice people are given on drinking.

The danger is that if people believe even a low amount of alcohol is a risk, it will lead problem drinkers to consume more because they reason that they will be harmed anyway.

"If you give someone an inch who is drinking heavily they will crunch the figures and suit themselves," he added.

The Government's delayed and watered-down Public Health Alcohol Bill is due to be passed later this year.


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