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Alcohol and public mental health for older people: 20 years of UK policy change

Rahul Tony Rao (Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist and Chair of Dual Diagnosis Working Group for Older Adults, South London and Maudsley Mental Health NHS Trust, London, UK and Department of Old Age Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry Psychology and Neuroscience, London, UK)

Journal of Public Mental Health

ISSN: 1746-5729

Article publication date: 3 August 2020

Issue publication date: 28 September 2020




The purpose of this paper is to detail developments in UK alcohol policy for older people over the past 20 years, based on evidence for a growing public health problem with alcohol misuse in older people.


A literature search was carried out using health and social care databases, including grey literature.


There has been considerable progress in areas such as screening and brief intervention, low-risk drinking and service provision for integrated care in older people with dual diagnosis.

Research limitations/implications

There remains a dearth of research and policy for older people with alcohol misuse and dual diagnosis prior to 2011. Although there remains limited empirical evidence for public health interventions to improve health outcomes from alcohol-related harm, improvements in population health from implementation of recent policy changes and intervention programmes remains to be seen.

Practical implications

This review has implications for best practice in the provision of integrated care to reduce harm and improve health and social outcomes in older people with alcohol misuse and dual diagnosis.


This review draws together a large area of research and policy on alcohol misuse in older people that has the potential to improve public mental health for older people who are at risk of alcohol-related harm.



Rao, R.T. (2020), "Alcohol and public mental health for older people: 20 years of UK policy change", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 19 No. 3, pp. 231-239.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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