New figures released for alcohol awareness week show harmful levels of drinking across Devon

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Posted on: 17 November 2015

Alcohol Awareness Week runs 16-22 November 2015

A new study released today (Monday November 16) reveals that one in three adults in the South West are drinking too much alcohol, consuming it at levels that pose an increasing or higher risk of damaging their health.

But 83% of those drinking above the Government’s recommended guidelines underestimate their drinking, seeing themselves as ‘moderate’ or ‘light’ drinkers and 69% are not concerned about how much they drink.

They also do not understand the full impact that drinking too much could have on their health. Whilst the vast majority of those at risk understand the connection between alcohol and liver disease (86%) or weight gain (84%), just one in five (21%) realise it is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, one in four (23%) associate it with dementia and half (53%) with a stroke.

The study, carried out on behalf of local authorities across the South West, involved a survey of 500 adults together with six focus groups run in locations across the region, where issues relating to drinking alcohol were discussed. The aim was to find out more about the drinking habits and attitudes to alcohol of people in the South West, in order to understand the scale and nature of the issues and decide how to tackle them.

In Devon, there are 17,500 hospital admissions, around 100,000 A&E attendances a year from alcohol-related harm and a further 1,200 ambulance callouts for overdoses.  And around 70 deaths a year are specifically due to alcohol.

Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for health improvement, said:  “The results of this survey clearly show far too many of us are drinking too much, too often, and that a significant majority don’t realise this, and aren’t concerned about it.

“On top of the harm we are doing ourselves, In Devon alone we lose 150,000 working days a year through excess alcohol consumption, so we have a responsibility as employers and employees, to do something about this.

“Alcohol control experts from across the region are meeting this week to hear about the results of the study and discuss ways in which we can help people improve their health through reducing the amount they’re drinking.”

Despite a commonly held belief that risky drinking is primarily a problem associated with younger people, the study revealed that in the South West, this type of alcohol consumption is evenly spread across all ages.

Over half (54%) of ‘at risk’ drinkers tend to consume alcohol on most days of the week, with over a quarter drinking almost every day (27%), however only 14% of ‘at risk’ drinkers believe they regularly drink too much.

The study shows that managers and professionals are more likely than routine or manual workers to drink seven or more units on a typical day they are drinking – with 17% of managers and professionals but just 8% of routine or manual workers doing so.

Managers and professionals are also more likely to drink six or more times a week compared to routine or manual workers, with 15% of managers and professionals and 7% of routine or manual workers falling into this category. Meanwhile, people in professional and managerial occupations are less likely to be teetotal, with just 5% claiming they don’t drink at all, compared to 16% of routine and manual workers.

The figures also showed that parents are more likely than those without children to drink 10 or more units on a typical day when drinking – 16% of parents agreed with this statement compared to 8% of those without children.

According to the findings, men in the South West binge drink more frequently than women, with 19% binging at least weekly and 4% practically every day, whereas 10% of women binge at least once a week. Women are more likely than men to drink alcohol to give them confidence, with 23% of women compared to 14% of men giving this reason, while men are more likely than women to drink to relieve boredom, with 19% of men but just 5% of women doing so.

Home is by far the most common place for drinking, with 60% of all drinkers claiming this is where they most often consume alcohol, compared to only 23% in bars, pubs or clubs and 8% at parties or social events.

Most people who drink do so because they like the taste (72%), to relax (66%) or to socialise (62%) with far fewer drinking for negative reasons such as to forget worries (20%), boost confidence (19%) or to get drunk, which only 16% claim to do.

Dr Virginia Pearson, Devon County Council’s Director of Public Health, said:  “We commissioned this survey because we are concerned about the increase in hospital admissions through alcohol-related harm, and the results of the survey suggest we are right to be worried, and that there is a further increase down the line, as more people become ill through their drinking habits.

“Drinking too much doesn’t just lead to weight gain and liver disease; people are more likely to develop breast cancer, dementia, strokes and heart disease if they are drinking over the recommended levels.

“Addressing alcohol misuse is important to public health in Devon and is one of the areas we most want to tackle through our health and wellbeing strategy – a commitment we and our partners in Devon have made to improve the health of all our residents, no matter what their background.”

If you’re concerned you might be drinking more than you think, use this easy drinks calculator to see how many units you’re drinking, and keep a drinks diary for a week.

3 comments on “New figures released for alcohol awareness week show harmful levels of drinking across Devon

  1. ROYTURNER says:

    Those who attend A & E as a result of alcohol abuse must pay for their treatment.

    Any one who has two convictions for drunk driving must be banned for life if found guilty a third time.

  2. Ken Warren says:

    In general, the cost of NHS treatment of alcohol-related conditions is more than covered by the the duties levied. Moreover, by dying prematurely, heavy drinkers ease the burdens on the Pension Service and the provision of care for the elderly. Being drunk and disorderly is a crime and should be a police, not an ambulance service, matter, as it was years ago.

  3. John Brownbridge says:

    Yes the excess consumption of alcohol is certainly a problem which affects many peoples lives. Not just the consumer!! It also has a excessive cost to “Health Service Providers Budgets”

    It is about time the Governments nationally and locally started charging people who damage their bodies by excessive consumption, we have understood the effects of excessive consumption for over 40 years. It’s time to ensure the hospital emergency system are used (free of charge) for emergencies. Not as a treatment centre on weekend nights to treat the consequences of pre determined alcohol consumption.

    In short make the excessive consumer of alcohol pay for their treatment.

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