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A National Alcohol Concern

Thursday, May 7th, 2009 A National Alcohol Concern has covered many issues surrounding the misuse of alcohol. Today the papers are awash with headlines regarding the sharp increase in women binging on alcohol. The evidence unravels based on the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) charity.

Firstly a 17 year old female alcoholic has revealed that she drinks a litre of Vodka as well as eight cans of beer per day, according to a report by Emma Wall of the Daily Star (06 06 09).

In addition this young addict has also carried out violent attackss on her mother in the face when she refused to buy her more alcohol.

Essentially, with reference to the BBC and Kate Devlin of the Telegraph (06 06 09), both articles are suggesting that the number of women binge drinking has more than doubled. There is a fundamental need to address the evidence that has been presented.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation study found 15% of women now binged on alcohol each week, this in essence equates to more than 4.5 million women, between 1998 and 2006. In men, the figure stood at 23% - a small rise on previous statistics. During the last 20 years, there has been a general increase in drinking in nearly all age groups in the UK.

Furthermore, statistically, almost one in six women now drink more than twice the recommended daily limit of between two and three units of alcohol.

However, it has been established that men still consume more alcohol, with nearly one in four, 23 per cent, consuming at least twice as much as they should. But the number of young men, aged between 16 and 24, who binge drink has fallen by 9 per cent since 2000, according to the foundation.

Lesley Smith, from Oxford Brookes University, who compiled the report, said: “An examination of trends over the last 15 to 20 years indicates that it is generally the behaviour of women that has increased (rather than) that of men, at least in the UK where the gender gap in drinking at excessive and harmful levels has decreased over recent years.”

In addition, they found that average alcohol consumption had risen for both men and women since the mid 1990s. The studies used suggested weekly intakes for men now stood at between 18 and 19 units, up from 15 to 16, and for women it was currently nine to 10, up from six to seven. Men aged 45 to 64 were the biggest drinkers, consuming over 20 units a week on average, overtaking 16 to 24-year-old men who were the biggest drinkers a couple of years ago.

But it is the binge drinking figures which were perhaps the most surprising.

They showed that men who binge drink at least once a week had risen to 23%, up from 22% in 1998, but again drinking levels for the 16 to 24 age group had fallen. For women, the rate had risen from 7% to 15% during the period, with rises seen for each age group. The researchers said the rise in female drinking was likely to be linked to greater financial security, the influence and ‘pressure power of advertising.’

Notwithstanding, the report has highlighted that other trends are being set. Northern Ireland, has indicated a large increase in alcohol consumption and it has been suggested that this is because of the relaxation in their licensing laws and growth of the leisure industry since the peace process began, and changes in children’s drinking habits.

Another factor addresses that fewer children were partaking in alcoholic drinks, however, those that did indulge were drinking more than they used to. Significantly, the evidence also suggests that the average weekly intake had alarmingly, more than doubled since 1990 for both girls and boys aged 11 to 15. Don Shenker, Alcohol Concern Chief Executive states, ‘This report clearly shows that risky alcohol consumption isn’t just occurring within a few minority groups. The government urgently needs to broaden its focus to reduce harms from alcohol across the whole population.’

But a Department of Health spokesman said that tackling high levels of drinking was a priority. “In the past year we have announced a package of measures to tackle excessive drinking and reduce alcohol health harm. “For those young people who do develop problems there are record numbers of treatment places available.”

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