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Britain and Ireland top boozing league

Jun 1, 2006

Britain is third in a list of European binge-drinkers, while Ireland has been given the dubious honour of coming top.

A European Union (EU)-wide survey on alcohol consumption conducted by UK-based Institute of Alcohol Studies and funded by the European Commission found that British adults went on binges an average of 28 times a year.

That represents a drinking session once every 13 days, leaving Britain behind only the Irish and the Finns in the continent. The Italians, on the other hand, go bingeing four times less frequently than Britons.

British adolescents fare little better, also coming third on the list after 27 per cent of 15- to 16-year-olds admitted to drinking three or more times each month – three times more than those in Hungary.

Much of that is due to the increase in drinking among girls and Britain is now alone with Finland and Ireland in having girls who sometimes get drunk more than boys.

Adult drinkers in the UK are also less likely to consume alcohol with meals than their continental neighbours, with only a quarter drinking 'only or mainly when eating', although this trend seems less in evidence among 18- to 29-year-olds.

The report, which was conducted as part of research being garnered for the EU's alcohol strategy due later this year, also reveals alcohol is behind only tobacco and high blood pressure in the damage it causes the public.

It suggests that five to nine million children suffer because of family drinking and 10,000 people die as a result of being bystanders or passengers in drink-driving incidents, while the cost of alcohol is about €650 (£445) per household per year.

'This is the best estimate yet conducted showing the scale of the social costs of alcohol in Europe,' Professor Christine Godfrey, professor of health economics at the Centre for Health Economics at the University of York, said.

In its last report published by the prime minister's strategy unit, the Department of Health admitted that 'patterns of heavy and binge drinking may be particularly serious in the UK'.

It estimated that up to 40 per cent of men's drinking sessions can be considered as binge-drinking and that a typical 'Saturday night out' can often see men consume four times the recommended guidelines.

Liver problems, stomach ulcers and mental health issues have all been linked to alcohol abuse.

According to the British Medical Association (BMA) binge drinking is often defined as consuming more than half the government’s weekly recommended number of units of alcohol one session, equating to ten units for men and seven units for women.

© 2006 Adfero Ltd.

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