Victoria

Inebriated over-50s men now biggest users of ambulances

Ambulance calls to inebriated men in their 50s have become the most common call-outs for alcohol related problems, making up more than 50 per cent of visits.

According to new research, the men, aged between 50 and 59, are drinking too much because they are lonely, bored or depressed.

Men aged 40+ who drink alcohol have need for an ambulance more than their younger counterparts.
Men aged 40+ who drink alcohol have need for an ambulance more than their younger counterparts.  Photo: Nic Walker

A greater number of ambulance call-outs are also being made to intoxicated men in their 40s, many more than to men aged between 15 and 39, a group more typically thought of as at risk.

The research from the Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre overturns the popular idea that young men who over-indulge at the weekend have the biggest need for ambulances.

"Excessive alcohol consumption can affect everyone, and middle-aged and older Australians are no exception," researcher Sharon Matthews said.

"The assumption that it is just young people out on a Saturday night who drink heavily is just not correct."

Advertisement

Alcohol affects older people in different ways.

The Department of Veteran Affairs says that as the volume of water in the body reduces as we age, it takes less alcohol for an older person to become intoxicated. There are also risks associated with taking alcohol with medication.

Older people misusing alcohol has become a growing problem, with a University of Melbourne study revealing that many men are drinking excessively because they are bored, lonely or depressed.

The research found that seven per cent of people over 60 binge drink weekly and that 14.5 per cent were considered to be "at-risk" drinkers.

Turning Point director Dan Lubman said the study was an important reminder, especially during the summer months, for older men to drink less.

"Excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of a fall or serious injury, as well as greater likelihood of making impulsive decisions that can lead to embarrassment or family conflict.

"Make sure you look after yourself and keep an eye on your friends and family. The last place you want to be this summer is in a hospital emergency department."

Ms Matthews said the increase was not linked the Australia's ageing population but was a byproduct of older men drinking irresponsibly. She believes a targeted campaign is needed to educated older men about the risks they face when drinking, which can also contribute to falls and other accidents.

She said that the idea that the problem of intoxication is only relevant to young people could be dangerous, with older people missing out on the message that they were most at risk of intoxication and the health consequences associated with that.

"Excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of a fall or serious injury, as well as greater likelihood of making impulsive decisions that can lead to embarrassment or family conflict," Professor Lubman said.