British women drink more than their European sisters

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The Independent Online

British women are drinking more than many of their European counterparts and young women, in particular, are putting their health at risk by drinking large quantities of alcohol.

A report by the market analysis experts Datamonitor shows that the UK has the fastest growth in alcohol consumption among women, with younger women, aged 18 to 24, drinking an average of more than 11 units a week.

The increasing number ofwomen in higher education and paid employment, and the corresponding increase in disposable income, are thought to be responsible for a new generation of female drinkers, who choose beer rather than wine. Such women were having children later and had time to spend in the pub after work relieving stress and bonding with colleagues, analysts said.

The report shows that in Britain, young women drink on average 11.3 units of alcohol a week, compared with 9.7 in France, 7.0 in Italy and 6.9 in Spain. The rates of increase in alcohol consumption in Britain for all ages is 3.3 per cent, the highest in Europe.

In countries including Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands, young women are drinking less than the previous generation.

The report predicts that by 2004 the average young woman in Britain will be consuming 16.2 units of alcohol a week, over 60 per cent more than French and Spanish women.

"The role of women in society, in terms of economic and social status, has undergone huge change in the past 30 years, with profound effects upon their role as alcohol drinkers," said Richard Robinson, a Datamonitor analyst. Previous research has suggested that professional women drink more than those in semi-skilled or unskilled work.

A spokeswoman for the pressure group Alcohol Concern said: "When it comes to alcohol, women get the short straw. They can develop liver disease after drinking for a shorter period of time than men. They may also be less inhibited, increasing the risk of unprotected sex."