Doctors have shown concern regarding the hidden level of alcoholism among older middle class females, which has been boosted by the increase in online shopping delivery services.
They stated that, as previously seen among men, retired professional women have developed alcohol problems after leaving successful careers.
According to last month’s government figures, there has been a 65% increase in the number of females over pension age that have commenced treatment for problems related to alcoholism over the past five years.
This is in sharp contrast to the number of young people entering rehab for alcoholism, which has declined by almost 25%.
Experts based at The Priory, the rehab centre in west London favoured by celebrities with addiction issues, stated that the full extent of the problem may be higher than these figures suggest, because there are many who may be hiding their drinking problem and they do not fit the stereotypes.
A consultant psychiatrist at The Priory, Dr Paul McLaren, said the rise in supermarket home delivery services has made it easier for these problems to go unnoticed as it has become easier to obtain alcohol at home.
According to Public Health England (PHE), 2376 women over the age of 60 commenced treatment for drink problems during the year ending March 2014, compared to 1436 five years previously. These figures do not include those who were already in treatment prior to the commencement of the period.
In spite of the number of older males receiving treatment for drink problems still being higher than females, the gap has narrowed by 50% over five years.
The number of people aged between 18 and 24 of both sexes, commencing treatment has declined by 23% during the same period, falling from 6170 to 4768.
These figures clearly indicate that younger people have paved the way in reducing their alcohol consumption, while middle-aged and elderly people choose to ignore the health warnings.
According to Dr McLaren, a common pattern is for regular drinkers who were unable to drink as much due to their working pattern, now start to drink more during retirement. He said many of the females he sees are retired professionals who had not had problems with alcohol consumption previously.
He said the other problem is home delivery as he has seen many instances where alcohol is being delivered to older people who are too impaired or damaged by it to leave home to buy the alcohol themselves. These delivery services make it easier for them to obtain alcohol as they do not have to leave home at all.
He added that loneliness, retirement and bereavement could increase a person’s need for alcohol. However, the dangers linked to alcohol are increased among older drinkers due to frailty, medication and other problems with their health.
Heavy drinking has been linked to high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes. It can also result in brain damage. Dr McLaren said this powerful toxin can cause damage to every organ within the body and we become more susceptible to it as we age.
He added that some older women are socialising more, which is good for them, but this often revolves around alcohol and they mistakenly believe that they have an increased tolerance to alcohol.