Miércoles 7 de Noviembre de 2007, Ip nº 215

Hazardous drinking, the middle-class vice
Por David Brown

Hazardous and harmful drinking: see how your region rates

Drinkers in middle-class areas are more likely routinely to consume “hazardous” amounts of alcohol than those in poorer areas, research published today shows.

Social drinkers who regularly down more than one large glass of wine a day will be told they risk damaging their health in the same way as young binge drinkers.

The figures will be used by the Government to target middle-class wine drinkers and to make drunkenness as socially unacceptable as smoking.

Dawn Primarolo, the Public Health Minister, said: “Most of these are not young people, they are ‘everyday’ drinkers who have drunk too much for too long. This has to change.”

The research, commissioned by the Department of Health, is the first nationwide analysis of the impact of “social drinking”. It found that people living in relatively affluent areas are more likely to be drinking at above sensible levels than those living in deprived areas.

The percentage of adults drinking “hazardous” levels of alcohol ranges from 14.1 per cent to 26.4 per cent. “Hazardous” levels for women are between five and twelve large glasses of wine a week and for men between seven and seventeen glasses.

One large glass of wine — 250ml at 12 per cent alcohol — represents three units. A pint of normal strength beer is two units.

The research, by the North West Public Health Observatory, concludes that just 22 units per week will push a man into the “hazardous” category, while women need to drink just 15 units. Some of the country’s most wealthy areas were found to have the biggest number of “hazardous drinkers”, with Runnymede in Surrey and Harrogate in North Yorkshire topping the league tables.

More than a quarter of adults are also drinking at hazardous levels in Surrey Heath, Guildford, Mid Sussex, Mole Valley, Leeds, Elmbridge, Waverley and Woking. The lowest rate was found in relatively deprived Newham, East London, with 14.1 per cent.

Professor Mark Bellis, director of the observatory, said that it showed that binge drinking was not the only danger. “In order to stop further increases in alcohol-related deaths and admission to hospital, we must reverse the tolerance that most communities have built up by simply consuming too much alcohol on a weekly basis,” he said.

Long-term problems from persistent heavy drinking include liver disease, circulatory diseases, cancer, brain damage. stomach irritation and skin and hair damage. Short-term problems include accidents and drink-related assaults.

The Government announced in June that it was conducting a fresh audit into the the overall costs of alcohol abuse to society and the National Health Service.

All alcoholic drinks sold in bottles and cans are expected to carry labels disclosing the number of units and recommended safe drinking limits by the end of next year. Doctors’ leaders are also calling for pubs and restaurants to display warnings stating how many units of alcohol are contained in drinks served by the glass.

Karen Tocque, director of science and strategy at the North West Public Health Observatory, said: “Binge drinking has received the most attention because it is connected to violence and anti-social behaviour but those who are drinking regularly are at risk of health problems, domestic violence and behavioural issues.”

The research showed that “harmful drinkers” — defined as those drinking over 50 units a week — tend to live in the more deprived areas of the country, with Manchester topping the league table at 8.8 per cent of adults, followed by 8.1 per cent in Liverpool.Both hazardous and harmful drinking patterns are contributing to increasing alcohol-related ill-health and pressures on health services across the whole country, the researchers said.

The statistics include figures for alcohol attributable hospital admission rates by local authority, alcohol-related recorded crimes and death rates from conditions related to alcohol. Liverpool had the highest rate per 100,000 for alcohol attributable hospital admissions for men and women, according to the figures.

Liverpool had the highest rate per 100,000 for alcohol attributable hospital admissions for men and women, according to the figures.

  16/10/2007. Times Online.