Suffolk: �10.9million cost of treating middle-aged drinkers

THE cost of treating alcohol-related health problems for middle-aged people in Suffolk is 15 times higher than the bill for treating teens and young adults, new figures have revealed.

Habitual drinking over a number of years among those aged 55 to 74 is responsible for exacerbating more complex, long-term problems which place a greater financial burden on the NHS than one-off treatments for younger patients, experts say.

Between 2010 and 2011, the bill for the treatment of those aged 55 to 74 admitted to hospital in Suffolk for alcohol-related reasons was �10.9million – 15 times higher than the �0.7m bill for 16-to-24-year-olds, according to statistics from charity Alcohol Concern.

There were 6,920 middle-aged people admitted to the county’s two hospitals compared with only 568 young adults or teens.

Across the east of England the bill for treating the older generation was �85.3m while for 16-to-24-year-olds the figure reached �5m.

Simon Aalders, co-ordinator for the Suffolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT), said treating long-term drink-related health problems suffered by middle-aged people is more expensive to the NHS than caring for a teenager or young adult who has fallen over after a night binging on alcohol.

He said the spiralling cost is the result of people getting into the habit of drinking more than the recommended amount over the course of a week.

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“It is not the case that these people are binge drinking,” he said.

“Rather it is sustained drinking over a long period of time. It is people getting into a habit of having a few glasses of wine in the evenings after a long, stressful day at work.

“Then you might go out at the weekend and drink with a meal but quickly you will have exceeded the recommended number of units.

“You’re not necessarily getting drunk but over the course of the week you are drinking too much.”

He warned that such habitual behaviour was having a “significant impact” on the health of an increasing number of people.

“As you get older it takes longer to metabolise alcohol and in general it takes people longer to get over health problems,” he added.

“That is why we see the cost is higher for older people who are likely to have longer-term, more complex problems brought on by a lifetime of drinking.

“For younger people the cost is often an A&E visit after they have fallen over on a night out.

“For us the message is always consider how much you are drinking, don’t drink everyday.”

n What do you think? Write to health reporter Lizzie Parry at Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

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