One in seven people in Suffolk has drink problem
- Credit: EDP, Archant
More than 20,000 people in Suffolk are dependent on alcohol, while one in seven put themselves at risk by drinking up to 50 units a week, claims a new report.
It is estimated that the social and economic cost of excessive drinking in Suffolk is now £143million – a combination of lost working days, the cost to the NHS, and crime. The Suffolk Alcohol Strategy also reveals two increasing trends – that of people 'pre-loading' on alcohol before a night out, and a rise in alcohol-related illnesses affecting older people. Now the Suffolk Alcohol Strategy 2014-2022 is looking at ways of tackling the issue, aiming for an 'enlightened' approach to it.
It has been compiled by the Suffolk Health and Wellbeing Board, and chairman Joanna Spicer said the group was calling for a fresh look at the county's relationship with alcohol.
She said: 'This heralds a new, and what I believe to be a more enlightened approach to our collective relationship with alcohol as a county.
'This strategy recognises the value of alcohol to our culture, society and also local economy, which is why we're working hand-in-hand with the alcohol industry to encourage sensible drinking and to promote a vibrant and safe night time environment, as well as highlighting the often hidden harm of excessive and habitual alcohol misuse on families and wider communities.'
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An estimated 15.1pc of the county's over 18 population drink at increasing risk - between 22-50 units for men and 15-35 for women - or higher risk - more than 50 units for men and more than 35 for women.
It is estimated alcohol-related issues cost the NHS in Suffolk, excluding Waveney, £48m, alcohol-related crime costs £15m while £80m was as a result of lost productivity.
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It points to 182,000 working days of the year lost annually through absences caused by drinking, while more than 3,000 people turn up at work with a hangover every day.
However, the strategy does acknowledge the huge value and importance to Suffolk's economy of the brewing and pub industry.
The figures are part of the first integrated alcohol strategy for Suffolk, bringing together local councils, health, the voluntary sector, police and the alcohol industry to promote sensible drinking and tackle the negative impacts of excessive alcohol use.
Several new alcohol cultures have also emerged, such as 'pre-loading' or drinking at home before a night out, where people are four times more likely to drink more than 20 units of alcohol during the evening.
Accidental alcohol poisoning deaths have increased by more than 200% in the last 10 years and are likely to increase further due to recent social media drinking games such as 'NekNominate'.
But it is not just young people who are affected by alcohol.
Excessive drinking in those aged 75 and over is rising with alcohol-related deaths in the UK in 2012 up 18% for men and 12% for women.
The problems could stem from bereavement, social isolation, physical ill-health and difficulty getting around which can lead to boredom and depression with alcohol making the difficulties more bearable.