Middle-aged drinkers risking health by 'pre-loading', study finds


Middle-aged Britons are risking their health as much as young people by "loading" drinks before and after nights out, researchers say.

A study found people over the age of 35 are drinking at home before they go out and then rounding off the evening with more drinks in their own homes or at a friend's house.

John Holmes, a senior research fellow with the University of Sheffield's Alcohol Research Group, said people were drinking 14 units each on average - about a bottle and a half of wine - per occasion.

He said: "When we looked at this in more detail, it seemed that people were pre-loading and post-loading - drinking when they got back home.

"It might be that you're going out to dinner with friends and you open a bottle of wine before you go, or you go for Sunday lunch and then have a beer in the garden afterwards.

"People are drinking both before and after going to restaurants and pubs.

"Generally, we only talk about young people pre-loading but this is also an issue among older age groups.

"For those in middle-age, it's probably not drinking before going out and tearing up the town, but it leads to them consuming the same amount as younger age groups, which obviously affects their health long-term if they're doing it regularly."

The study, published online in the journal Addiction, found that almost a quarter (23%) of more than 60,000 people questioned about their drinking in the previous week had been out drinking in multiple locations on one night - such as at home and a pub - and had drunk heavily.

The researchers also found that middle-aged Britons like to drink a lot at other people's houses, such as at a family party or when seeing friends.

"This is an area that doesn't get talked about a lot," said Dr Holmes. "It's get-togethers at somebody's house or a house party.

"Around 70% of these get-togethers are on weekends and it's not just young people who are drinking on these occasions.

"Even among the over-35s you are talking about consuming 10, 11, 12 units of alcohol per person."

Half of get-togethers with friends or family involved increased risk or higher risk drinking.

The study also found that couples who like to stay at home and drink on weekends typically consume more than a bottle of wine each.

Men and women consume an average of 11.6 units of alcohol each when drinking heavily at home with their partner.

However, the overall study found that, of almost 190,000 drinking occasions examined, almost half are moderate, relaxed and take place in the home.

Drinking at home alone accounted for 14% of occasions, light drinking at home with family made up 13%, light drinking at home with a partner accounted for 20% and heavy drinking at home with a partner was 9%.

Some 11% of occasions were when people went out with friends while 9% were people going out for a meal as a couple or with family.

Some 10% of occasions involved drinking heavily at both home and the pub.

James Nicholls, director of research and policy development at Alcohol Research UK, which funded the study, said: "Rather than assuming society is neatly divided between 'binge', 'heavy' or 'moderate' drinkers we should think about the occasions on which people drink more or less heavily - and the fact we may be moderate in some contexts and less so in others."