Reducing alcohol consumption for older adults

As we journey through life, our habits and routines evolve, especially when it comes to our relationship with alcohol. For many older adults, alcohol may have played a significant role in social gatherings, celebrations, and even relaxation. However, as Canada’s alcohol consumption guidelines have changed, it’s important to re-evaluate our relationship with alcohol, especially as we age.


It is estimated that around 80% of Canadians consume alcohol, and of those who drink, over six million are considered heavy drinkers. This puts people at risk of developing chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and liver disease. Canada’s alcohol consumption guidelines, developed by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, were recently updated and state that no amount of alcohol is considered safe and recommends that people consume no more than two standard drinks in a week.


What is a standard drink?

A standard drink can be:

  • 12oz beer
  • 12oz cooler, cider, or ready-to-drink cocktail
  • 5oz wine
  • 1.5 oz of spirits


What constitutes heavy drinking?

For females, this translates into drinking four or more alcoholic beverages during one event, at least once a month, while for males, that number is five or more drinks. Heavy drinking can lead to the development of alcohol use disorder, a behavioural condition that gives rise to cognitive, emotional, and physical issues that increase disability and decrease lifespan.


Tips to reduce your alcohol consumption

It is important to note that any amount of alcohol can have risks to your health, and ‘low-risk’ guidelines should not be considered ‘no-risk’ guidelines. To reduce the amount of alcohol you consume, consider the following tips:

  • Drink slowly
  • Have a glass of water or a non-alcoholic, caffeine-free beverage between drinks

Other things to consider when consuming alcohol:

  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach; have a meal or a snack with your drink
  • Check warning labels on all medications, and talk with your health care provider or pharmacist about possible interactions with alcohol
  • Avoid risky situations and activities - don't drink and drive, and don't get in a car with a driver who has been drinking

It is also important to avoid alcohol consumption entirely before and after surgery as it can reduce heart and immune system function, prolong bleeding time, and increase the body’s stress response.


Watch and read our resources below to learn more about alcohol consumption and how reducing it can benefit your health.

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DISCLAIMER: Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of these blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations such as social distancing and frequent hand washing. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with current social distancing recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website