More elderly people drink to excess

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Increasing number of elderly people are drinking so much on a daily basis that it has to be regarded as alcohol abuse. This is evident in Denmark’s treatment centres, which report a growing incidence of problem drinkers over 60.

– This generation have been accustomed to drinking alcohol all their adult lives. Their consumption risks developing into abuse as they find they have more time on their hands, either because they have left the job market or because they find themselves on their own, according to Anette Søgaard Nielsen.

She is in charge of the RESCueH programme, a major new five-year research project at the University of Southern Denmark. Research will be conducted in close collaboration with Psychiatry in the Region of Southern Denmark, and with a number of Danish municipalities, including Odense Municipality.

44 million from the Lundbeck fund

The Lundbeck fund has given the largest-ever grant – DKK 44 million – for clinical alcohol research in Denmark. The TrygFonden foundation has donated DKK 10 million to facilitate exploration of a number of the most striking and relevant challenges in the treatment of alcohol abusers. The Region of Southern Denmark is adding a further DKK 37 million and will accommodate the research group at the Department of Psychiatry, Odense. The research will encompass five major studies, and treatment of elderly people with alcohol problems is one of them.

– Currently, there is no treatment provision focused on this group. As a result, either they get no treatment, or they have a brief chat with their GP, or they are referred to a treatment centre that has no experience with this group. So there is a need to investigate how to help them, Anette Søgaard Nielsen explains.

The study will be conducted in collaboration with researchers in Germany and the US – two countries that also need to develop forms of treatment for people who develop alcohol abuse at an advanced age.

One of the challenges the RESCueH researchers are currently grappling with is that far too few people seek treatment. Some 140,000 Danes have an alcohol dependency, but only 7,000–10,000 are in treatment in any given year. At the same time, there is a high relapse rate among those who do complete treatments.

More knowledge will create better treatments

– Although alcohol abuse is one of the most damaging lifestyle factors in the western world, we have limited knowledge of the mechanisms underlying alcoholism, and treatment outcomes leave much to be desired. Our goal, therefore, is to create a knowledge base capable of improving treatment for problem drinkers, says Professor Bent Nielsen of the Department of Psychiatry, Odense, who is the academic director of RESCueH.

Bent Nielsen and Anette Søgaard Nielsen have both devoted many years to the treatment of alcohol abuse, and they will be working with a number of Danish treatment centres and hospitals to acquire knowledge and test various initiatives with the potential to benefit problem drinkers. Some 3,000 patients are expected to take part in the study.

Professor Kirsten Kaja Rossel, Professor Claus Ekstrøm, Professor Jes Søgaard, Clinical Associate Professor Kjeld Andersen and two professors from abroad are also involved in the group of researchers.

Opens today

The major research project is being established at the Unit for Clinical Alcohol Research at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, and today, Monday 3 June, marks the official opening of RESCueH.

Corporate Communication
University of Southern Denmark
Campusvej 55
DK-5230  Odense M
Phone: +45 6550 9012

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