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More consideration required of safe drinking limits

The Royal College of Psychiatrists welcomes the study by Knott and colleagues in attempting to unravel the relationship between alcohol consumption and mortality (Knott C S et al, All cause mortality and the case for age specific alcohol consumption guidelines: pooled analyses of up to 10 population based cohorts).

The paper makes reference to our Invisible Addicts report, stating its recommendation of a maximum daily limit of 1.5 units of alcohol for all older people, on the assumption that older people are at more risk of harm from alcohol than younger people.

We can confirm that an upper ‘safe limit’ of 1.5 units per day was suggested as a way of encouraging older people to reduce their existing drinking, not for this age group to start drinking in the hope that this would offer a protective advantage against adverse health outcomes.

We also clearly stated that recommended limits for safe drinking by older people in the UK require ‘further consideration’.

By suggesting that reducing recommended drinking limits for older people was likely to reduce alcohol related harm, it was not our intention to convey a message that such limits would be free from harm and certainly not that these reduced recommend limits would equate with benefits to health.

Although qualified by a note of caution by Knott and colleagues, we are apprehensive that the findings from their study will be interpreted as encouraging alcohol consumption in older women while there is uncertainty as to whether this might be harmful to their health.

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