Older Swedes are drinking more

Concerns are growing about increased alcohol consumption among Sweden’s retirees, as the number of people over 65 in Stockholm exhibiting at-risk drinking habits has gone up by half in the last decade.

Older Swedes are drinking more

“When we look at information related to the consumption of healthcare services, there are increases for both older men and older women,” said Kerstin Damström Thakkerm from the alcohol and drug prevention section of the Stockholm County Council to Sveriges Radio.

Every fourth Stockholm retiree consumes alcohol at a hazardous level, which means consuming at least three bottles of wine per week for men and two bottles per week for women.

Between 1998 and 2006, the number of Stockholm seniors falling into the high risk category has increased by 50 percent, according to Damström Thakker, who attributes the rise to cheaper alcohol and higher incomes.

“If we go back say, twenty years or more, there weren’t all that many elderly who drank, especially not older women,” she said.

More evidence of the trend toward heavier drinking by older Swedes comes from data on who places calls to the county’s alcohol help line.

“We actually have both men and women close to 80 who call. That’s something that we didn’t really believe,” said Damström Thakker.

The tendency toward alcohol abuse is more pronounced among men, according to Mariann Norell from Althea, an organization which takes in alcohol and drug abusers in Halmstad in western Sweden.

“The impression we get when it comes to older men is that we see more men who retire and then begin to drink destructively who had no previous drinking problems,” she told Sveriges Radio.

Växjö County in the south of Sweden is seeing a similar trend, something that Anette Borg from the county’s abuse division attributes to loneliness.

“It may be that after retirement or a divorce, when you don’t have the same social checks as you have when you go to work or have a family around you, you start to drink more. Then you can drink just about any day of the week,” she said.