Richer areas have worst drink rates

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Experts warned today of the dangers of routine over-consumption of alcohol as new figures were published showing people in relatively affluent areas are more likely to be drinking at levels considered "hazardous" to health.

Figures for local authorities in England have shown the percentage of adults drinking at "hazardous" levels - regularly drinking between 22 to 50 units a week for men and 15 to 35 for women - ranges from 14.1 per cent to 26.4 per cent.

The figures show Runnymede, covering Surrey towns such as Chertsey and Virginia Water, topped the league table, alongside Harrogate, in North Yorkshire, at 26.4 per cent of adults drinking at hazardous levels - a rate of more than one in four.

The lowest percentage of hazardous drinkers was found in relatively deprived Newham, in east London, at 14.1 per cent.

The figures for harmful drinking rates - those where men and women exceeded hazardous levels - showed local authority estimates ranging from 3.2 to 8.8 per cent.

Harmful drinkers tend to live in the more deprived areas of the country, according to the statistics, 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 levels of alcohol-related ill-health and pressures on health services across the whole country, the researchers said.

The long-term problems include conditions such as liver disease, circulatory diseases and cancer. The short term problems include accidents and alcohol-related assaults.

The alcohol profiles for every local authority in England were published online today by the North West Public Health Observatory, Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University.

The profiles have been published as so-called "middle class wine drinkers" who drink too much at home were targeted earlier this year by the Government in its alcohol strategy for England, as well as binge drinkers and under-age drinkers.

The statistics also 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.

Professor Mark Bellis, director of the North West Public Health Observatory, said much attention had been paid to binge drinking but less discussion has focused on the damage associated with routinely consuming too much alcohol.

He said: "Across England around one in five adults are drinking enough to put their health at significant risk and one in twenty 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.

"However in order to stop further increases in alcohol-related deaths and admission to hospital, we must also reverse the tolerance that most communities have built up by simply consuming too much alcohol on a weekly basis."

Ruth Hussey, regional director of public health in the north west said: "The data are a powerful indication of the harmful effects that alcohol is having on all parts of society.

"Urgent action is required from all organisations to prevent further harm occurring."

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