Baby boomers are worse than teens when it comes to drinking - and it's part of an alarming trend putting a strain on our health system.
Authors of an article published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today say for a long time now youth have been the focus of reducing alcohol consumption.
However, the rate in which "older adults" are drinking at "hazardous levels" is increasing significantly and New Zealand's health system is not equipped to cope, they say.
Massey University public health senior lecturer Dr Andy Towers, the lead author of the editorial, said New Zealand's projected increase in alcohol use over the coming decade was likely to be driven by those aged 50 and over.
"Alcohol is still the drug of choice for an ageing 'Baby Boomer' cohort," he said.
The concerning part was internationally evidence showed that addiction services largely ignored older adults, indicating that our health systems may not be prepared to handle this demographic shift in alcohol consumption, Towers said.
"New Zealand has seen year-on-year doubling of addiction service users attending non-government organisations other the past decade.
"Our continued assumption that older adults are low-risk drinkers, our lack of understanding of their need for addiction services, and the potential ageism in this sector underlines why the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists identified older adults as 'our invisible addicts'," Towers said.
His conclusions echo a 2015 New Zealand Health Promotion Agency (HPA) research project that found that New Zealand's in this age bracket were drinking more frequently and in higher quantity than their overseas counterparts.
The study also revealed between 30 to 45 per cent of the age-bracket drink at levels hazardous to their health such as the impacts it can do to other medication they are taking.
"Some of the most at-risk older drinkers in this research actually consumed at low levels, but in combination with chronic health conditions and medications that were all alcohol-interactive," Towers said.
Age Concern Canterbury chief executive Simon Templeton told Stuff.co.nz the baby boomer generation as a cohort were reasonably big drinkers. As they entered retirement, he suggested it would be easier to indulge without work to wake up to.
Excessive drinking could be a big problem for some elderly people, some of whom might be experiencing social isolation, he said.
"We know loneliness is a really big problem for older people, and for some people their answer to that is drinking."