Sat, Aug 05, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Alcohol abuse taking toll on UK

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

A group of drinkers sing a toast during the opening day of the Great British Beer Festival in the Earls Court exhibition center in London on Aug. 1.
Warning: excessive consumption of alcohol can damage your health.

PHOTO: AFP

England is in the grip of a dangerous alcohol addiction, public health experts said on Thursday after the release of research showing 18.2 percent of adults binge drink more than double the daily recommended limit at least once a week.

In the northeast and northwest of the country, nearly a quarter of all adults consume double the limit in one or more drinking bouts each week. This is equivalent to eight pints of beer or 16 spirit measures in one session for men -- six pints of beer, six glasses of wine or 12 spirit measures for women. Even in the most abstemious regions across eastern and southern England 16 percent of adults drink this amount or more, at least once a week.

The alcohol map was drawn up by the Center for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University and the North West Public Health Observatory. It showed Newcastle upon Tyne, Liverpool and Durham as the capitals of binge drinking with more than 27 percent of adults admitting a spree at least once a week, compared with less than 10 percent in East Dorset.

The northeast and northwest had the most hospital admissions with 1,100 men and 610 women admitted per 100,000 population in 2004 and 2005. This compared with less than 700 men and 400 women per 100,000 in the southeast of the country.

Liverpool, Manchester and Middlesbrough had around 70 percent more admissions than the national average. Wokingham and West Berkshire had nearly 50 percent less.

"These profiles illustrate the growing costs of cheap alcohol, a night-time economy almost exclusively packed with bars and clubs and a failure to deliver a credible drinking message to both youths and adults," said Mark Bellis, director of the Center for Public Health.

John Ashton, who recently retired as northwest regional director of public health, blamed the government for failing to act against the drinks industry.

"Alcohol is racing ahead as one of the biggest threats to public health not least in some of the most disadvantaged parts of the country. Fears of being accused of being part of the nanny state have intimidated governments from tackling head on the manufacturers of cheap alcohol in the same way that they would if this was any other kind of drug," he said.

The average loss of life due to drinking across England was 10 months for men and five for women. But in Blackpool, men could expect to die 23 months earlier and women 13 months. In Manchester, Barrow-in-Furness and Salford, Lancashire, men lost 16.5 months due to alcohol, compared with two to four months in East Dorset.

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