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Drinking culture

Monday, 17 September 2012

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Residents in retirement villages are likely to consume alcohol more frequently than those in the same age group living at home, a new study has found.

But they did not drink a greater volume overall, with the findings suggesting social groups in retirement villages self-moderate their levels of drinking.

Dr Celia Wilkinson and Dr Julie Dare, both from Edith Cowan University's (ECU's) School of Exercise and Health Sciences, have been leading a research team through a pilot study of the alcohol consumption habits of retirement village residents aged 65 to 74, and comparing them with people in the same age group who live in their own homes.

Findings indicated that moderate alcohol use serves an important social function.

“Our quantitative analysis showed no meaningful difference between the amounts of alcohol consumed by the two groups,” Dr Wilkinson said.

“However, the qualitative results indicated that living in a retirement village increases the frequency of alcohol consumption due to greater opportunities such as proximity and community events, and the removal of constraints such as having to drive home after drinking.”

“Interestingly, the social group which drank together on a regular basis seemed to evolve upper and lower limits to their intake: enough to facilitate socialisation, but not enough to impair mobility or put them at risk.”

Dr Dare said the study also raised questions about the effectiveness of safe drinking messages.

“Some participants believed that responsible drinking advertisements were more appropriate for a younger audience, and considered that in general, older drinkers had arrived at a drinking level that was appropriate for them,” Dr Dare said.

“As such, they tended to view mainstream safe drinking campaigns as somewhat patronising.”

“This suggests there could be a gap in heath promotion campaigns and a need to provide alcohol consumption messages that are more relevant to senior citizens.”

The research, which was funded by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and ECU, involved in-depth interviews with 42 participants.

The project also involved ECU researcher Associate Professor Stacey Waters, Curtin University National Drug Research Institute Professor Steve Allsop and Palmerston Association Inc CEO Ms Sheila McHale.

For more information on research within the Faculty of Computing, Health and Science, view the COHESION magazine webpages.

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