Too many drinkers put health at risk

LORNA MARSH Huge disparities between the districts of Norfolk when it comes to harmful levels of drinking were revealed yesterday amid warnings that middle class wine drinkers were among the worst offenders.

LORNA MARSH

Huge disparities between the districts of Norfolk when it comes to harmful levels of drinking were revealed yesterday amid warnings that middle class wine drinkers were among the worst offenders.

Research commissioned by the government showed that Norwich is in the bottom 10pc of districts nationwide when it comes to the proportion of residents who are harmful drinkers.

By contrast, north Norfolk had the fourth lowest level of harmful drinkers out of 352 districts.

Yet the same researchers from the North West Public Health Observatory at Liverpool John Moores University found the pattern reversed when it came to deaths in alcohol-related traffic accidents.

Norwich, as well as Waveney, had one of the lowest figures in the Eastern region while north Norfolk has one of the highest, along with Breckland, Kings Lynn and Fenland.

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The breakdown of drinking statistics for every local authority was requested by the government, which for the first time this year pointed the finger at the middle-class, middle-aged habitual wine-drinker, as well as the binge-drinker and the under-aged.

Researchers categorised drinkers into those whose habit is hazardous - 22 to 50 units a week for men and 15 to 35 for women - and those whose drinking is harmful - over 50 for men and 35 for women.

The figures show a substantial amount of hazardous drinking across England, largely ignored before because it does not happen on the streets.

The public health minister, Dawn Primarolo, said the government felt it was time to move on from the battle to clear the streets of binge-drinking youths and tackle the drinking culture hidden behind net curtains.

“We need to be clear the figures are for all alcohol-related hospital admissions, not casualty figures. Most of these are not young people, they are 'everyday' drinkers who have drunk too much for too long. This has to change,” she said.

Mark Bellis, director of the North West Public Health Observatory, said: “Across England around one in five adults are drinking enough to put their health at significant risk and one in 20 enough to make disease related to alcohol consumption practically inevitable.

“We need to tackle binge drinking and all the short term social and health consequences associated with such behaviour.”

Daniel Harry, spokesman for the Norfolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team (Nordat), said much of the problem lay with drinkers being unaware of how much they were consuming, particularly with confusion over alcohol units.

“If you pour yourself a glass of wine, you pour yourself a glass of wine, you don't measure how much there is but you can be giving yourself two or three times a pub measure. Three cans of beer in front of the telly can mean nine units which means you've already doubled your unit limit.”

He added that while the focus was on young drink drivers there was a mindset among some older drinkers that driving home from the pub was the norm, particularly in areas with no public transport.

“The message has to be that the only safe way is not to drink at all or find a designated driver.”

If you or someone you know has a drinking problem contact the Matthew Project on 0800 764 754 or visit Nordat at www.nordat.org.uk

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