Middle-aged people who are healthy, active, sociable and affluent are at higher risk of harmful drinking their their less successful peers, a British study has found.

People who drink too much alcohol in middle-age are likely to:

  • Report good health
  • Earn a higher income
  • Hold tertiary qualifications
  • Have an active social life
  • Be retired and female
  • Be male and single, separated or divorced
  • Smoke

This is the finding of the study which teased out the social and economic factors associated with harmful drinking, and changing patterns of alcohol consumption over time.

Harmful drinking was defined as more than 21 units per week for men and more than 14 units per week for women.

Published in BMJ Open, the study by charity organisation Age UK shows that many of the people who drink too much are physically active non-smokers who are sociable, mentally healthy and have higher than average self-rated health.

However, the results show that smoking is linked to an increased risk of harmful drinking.

The researchers describe their findings as a “middle class phenomenon” and a hidden health and social problem in otherwise successful older people.

And they suggest the problem may be a generational trait.

Last Reviewed: 28/07/2015

Reproduced with kind permission from 6minutes.com.au.


Iparraguirre J. Socioeconomic determinants of risk of harmful alcohol drinking among people aged 50 or over in England. BMJ Open 2015;5:e007684. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-007684.