Young men turn to unhealthy pub life

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The Independent Online
MORE young men are turning to unhealthy pub-based lifestyles, drinking and smoking too much and seeing games of snooker or pool as their favourite exercise.

According to the General Household Survey, compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), one in eight young men aged 18 to 24 drinks on average more than 50 units of alcohol a week when the Department of Health recommends no more than 21 units.

The proportion of young men drinking more than the recommended limit reached its highest level in 1996, with more than four in ten men exceeding the limit.

Young men were also more likely than any other age group to smoke. In 1996 43 per cent smoked compared to 37 per cent in 1988. Teenagers were most likely to smoke high-tar cigarettes with 79 per cent of men and 66 per cent of women doing so. However, they did smoke fewer cigarettes, with 16- to 19-year-old men smokers averaging 82 cigarettes per week and women 68, compared to 111 and 96 for men and women smokers overall.

Social class plays a large part in determining how likely you are to smoke. The ONS found that men in households headed by someone in unskilled manual work were four times as likely to smoke as men from a professional household. Women, in similar circumstances, were three times as likely to smoke.

However, the reverse is true when it comes to drinking where professional women were three times as likely to drink more than the recommended levels than those living in unskilled households.

Young women also showed a marked tendency to drink more than the suggested levels with a quarter of 18- to 24-year-olds drinking more than 14 units a week compared to one in seven in 1984.

Men drink on average 16 units per week compared to 6.3 for women. Exercise for men commonly consisted of a game of snooker or pool, whereas women preferred swimming and keep- fit. For leisure activities 99 per cent of adults had watched television in the four weeks before being interviewed. There was an increase in the number of people reading with two-thirds of adults saying they had read a book in the weeks before interview compared with 54 per cent in 1977.

We are also becoming a nation more obsessed about its well-being, according to the General Household Survey.

One in 16 people said they had an acute illness which restricted their activity compared with 8 per cent in 1972.

"These are self-reported so it is a question of perception of illness," said Paul Hunter, a researcher for the GHS. "But greater expectation of a healthy lifestyle could be the cause."

Nearly one in five of adults said they were anxious or depressed, with a greater proportion of women than men reporting this. Anxiety and depression was highest amongst women of 75 and over.

Living in Britain. Results from the 1996 General Household Survey is available from the Stationery Office price pounds 39.50.