RECOMMENDATIONS on sensible alcohol limits should be lowered for older people to encourage them to drink less, according to a new report.

An independent expert group, set up to examine the effects of alcohol among Scotland's ageing population, has warned that older people are drinking considerably more than previous generations.

While there is much focus on young people binge drinking, the report says the "baby boomer" generation of 40 to 60-year-olds is also at risk of health problems, as the ability to cope with the effects of alcohol decreases with age.

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Dr Laurence Gruer, director of public health science at NHS Health Scotland, which published the report today, said there were a number of problems which could arise in older people from drinking too much, ranging from effects caused by interactions with medication to accidents caused by falls.

"As you get older, your liver in particular is less able to handle alcohol, so you really can cope with less, " he said. "There is a risk that if older people were to stick too strictly to the existing limits then they might unknowingly be overdoing it."

He added that more research would have to be done to establish what those revised limits might be, which could be a complicated process.

"It could be quite tricky in that as you get older gradually you can handle less, so it might be a level for 50-year-olds and another one for 70-year-olds, " he said. "But older people need to realise that they should be drinking less."

Mary Gilhooly, professor of gerontology at Glasgow Caledonian University, who chaired the group, said: "The main recommendation is that sensible drinking limits, in the same way they are different for men and women, now need to be different by age."