wineResearch into the alcohol drinking patterns of people over the age of 45 has shown that rich, educated, single males have the greatest risk of not curbing their drinking habits in later life, Medical News Today reports. The findings come from a ten year study conducted by researchers at Keele University and UCL, which included 4,500 men and women over the age of 45.

Researchers were interested in finding out the relationship between alcohol consumption with factors like: wealth, education, partnership status, health, and employment. Educated and higher wealth bracket men were found to drink more into their later years. However, females over the age of 50 were found to curb their alcohol consumption after the loss of a spouse, according to the article.

It may seem that the loss of a partner would mean increased alcohol consumption due to loneliness, but the findings showed that women who had lost a partner by the end of the study had reduced their drinking by more than 16%, compared to an 11 percent reduction for those whose partnerships were still intact.

The reasons varied for a lack of alcohol consumption cut-backs among wealthy, educated, healthy single males; but researchers believe that having a disposable income as well as the single life providing multiple opportunities to socialize, may play a big role with increased drinking habits. Single men with poorer health and less income were found to consume exponentially fewer drinks than their counterparts, having five small glasses of wine a week compared to 24 for the rich and in good health.

“Over the Christmas period many people consume more alcohol. Our findings suggest that the group most at risk of heavy drinking in later life are older single men with high levels of education and above average wealth. Suggesting that health organizations target this group is not necessarily straightforward as these men might not identify their drinking as problem behaviour. Also this group are less likely to have poor health in the short term, hence the need for intervention might not be apparent,” says Professor Clare Holdsworth, professor of Social Geography at Keele University and lead researcher on the project.

“Our findings also challenge the assumption that the end of a partnership is associated with alcohol misuse in later life, which has been found in other smaller-scale studies. In particular, our analysis of drinking behaviours demonstrates that change in partnership status for women is associated with a reduction in alcohol consumption. As a result it is not necessarily appropriate to target alcohol services at this group of older people.”

The study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.