Minimum alcohol price 'would save 11,500 pensioners'

Drink promotion Over-65s are more likely to drink every day and drink alone than younger drinkers

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The deaths of 11,500 pensioners could be avoided over the next decade if minimum alcohol pricing is rolled out in England, according to new research.

The BBC's Panorama programme commissioned the research from statisticians at Sheffield University.

They examined the likely outcomes if Scotland's planned 50p per unit minimum price was applied in England.

It is estimated that 1.4m older people in Britain are drinking too much, leading to more hospital admissions.

Sarah Wadd, director of substance misuse and ageing research at the University of Bedfordshire, said: "We might be on a cusp of an epidemic of people drinking problematically in old age."

Drinking alone

Scotland will become the first place in the UK to introduce minimum drink pricing and the coalition government has proposed a minimum price of 40p per unit of alcohol in England and Wales in an effort to "turn the tide" against binge drinking.

The plan is being challenged by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) both at the European Commission and through the Scottish courts.

In England last year, there were more admissions to hospital of over-65s for alcohol-related injuries and illnesses than in the 16-24-year-old category.

Researchers say roughly one-third of older drinkers are thought to first develop their drink problem in later life.

Dr Richard Aspinall, a consultant hepatologist at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, said the amount people drank on their own at home could slowly creep up.

"We think of a very visible social disorder, consequences of young people binge drinking on a Saturday night in our town centres, but what is much more hidden is quiet, below-the-radar drinking at home."

Correction 28 September 2012: The main figure in this story has been amended from 50,000 to 11,500 after it emerged that there had been an error in the calculations carried out for Panorama by the School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    So presumably if you are rich and down large quantities of wines or spirits which are not effected at all by minimum pricing then you are immune from the effects of Alcohol abuse?

    Minimum pricing would actually have the greatest effect on value range type beers which are only 2% proof while having no effect at all Whisky at 70%.

    Would appear entirely consistent with Tory Rich is right policies

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    All you public-sector bashers out there: take note. If you increase the tax on drink you fuel inflation and raise our pensions!

    As one who barely drinks and is married to a teetotaller, I should be in favour: but I'm not, because I value personal freedom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Yet another attack on the working classes. The 'let's protect people from themselves' mentality has just got to stop. Setting tariffs on alcohol only means the industry will go underground, with cheaper stuff being sold on the black market which would no doubt be far more dangerous than branded alcohol. Stop taxing the hell out of us and let us spend our money how we wish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Here's an idea - why not slash the state pension even further? This way OAPs wouldn't be able to afford ANY alcohol, cigarettes or fast food.

    While we're at it, how about lowering the minimum, so that people could less afford to buy harmful products? Oh that's right - the government wouldn't make any money doing that.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    We are constantly being told what we can and can't eat in the name of health. The outcome will be more people in old folks homes - NOT saving the country money. I don't want to be a burden to my family, I don't want my Grand-children's memory of me to be some old guffer rotting away in an OAP home. Live a happy and full life and 'go' while they still want you stay, that's my motto!

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.




    Carry on regardless?

    No idea of what theyd do

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    I believe in individual responsibility It’s up to the individual to weigh the cost of their actions and decide what they put in their body, not the role of the government or it shouldn’t be. Government should make sure people are informed of the consequences of their actions and leave it at that. I speak as someone who hardly drinks and won’t be effected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    If I want to have a drink (or three) in the privacy of my own home...I damn-well will! I don't want some wet-behind-the-ears university researcher giving spurious figures and reasons why I should stick to nothing stronger than tea. Life for pensioners can be difficult at times - if a drink makes things easier, so be it.

    Now, Mr/Ms university researcher, go and find something useful to do!

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I work for nearly 50 years , pay my taxes, raise a family (who are usefull members of society), never commit a criminal offence and what do I get? Greens and do gooders trying to screw up my last years by their interference. drink in the UK is the dearest than in most of Europe but we need it more here as no sun, diabolic government, and dismal TV, alcohol takes our mind off it slightly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    43.Baz1 - ".....What would happen at the treasury if we all boycotted fuel, alcohol & cigarettes?"

    After a short term problem with revenue the books would eventually balance out as less people got seriously ill ergo saving the NHS MILLIONS of £s every year......

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    It's another way of squeezing more duty out us for things the Government know we won't stop buying.
    What would happen at the treasury if we all boycotted fuel, alcohol & cigarettes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Raising the price of a McDonalds will save lives also.

    Oh and raising the price of petrol will save lives also, fewer cars on the road.

    Oh wait, raising the price of sweets and chocolates will save lives also.

    And? Government lost the plot alert.

    Dear muppets, please fix the countries real problems you are coming across as useless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.


  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    @30 : I sympathise with your desire not to rot away "waiting for God", but drinking to the point of liver damage is not a pleasant way to go either - protracted, painful, and expensive to the NHS. Ideally we'd all have a sudden heart attack, or brain haemorrhage, or end our own suffering in a way we found dignified. But also fix the lack of dignity and security that leads older people to drink.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    New research or a rehash of what Sheff Uni has been doing for years?

    And what about the timing of this "revelation", are we being softened up for something - a budget perhaps?

    No! It's an advert for a BBC programme dressed up as "News".

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Dear Mr Government
    If you want to ensure pensioners live longer and a healthier can I suggest you pay them a decent pension so some 20k a year don't die from the cold. Thats 200k over the next decade, far more than the 50k above. They also maybe drinking because they are f...... freezing and it takes their mind of the bills.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    This is just as annoying and big brotherish as trying to control people through punitive taxes is. If 50,000 older people want to drink themselves to death I don't think it's the governments job to stop them to be honest they are most certainly grown-ups.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Have you seen inside a Weatherspoons!? Tremendously sad places to observe - old people sat alone at tables sipping their lives away.I'd be all for minimum pricing.Small inconveniences are the way to go to change behaviour.Pre-internet -putting naughty mags on top shelf = out of reach of minors = small measure to make the wrong people less likely to access the wrong stuff.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    There's enough (too much) regressive tax in this country already. Petrol, VAT, alcohol etc. Any tax or charge not proportional to income has a distorted effect, it is meaningless to the wealthy but draconian to those on lower incomes. STOP IT.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Giving up smoking, drinking & generally enjoying yourselves won't necessarily make you live longer, but it will certainly fell like you are


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