Britons heavier binge drinkers than Finns
UK experts call for substantial increase to price of alcohol
British health officials have voiced grave concerns over the British people’s drinking habits. According to various studies, the Britons, along with the Danes, lead the way in binge drinking.
According to WHO figures, 58 per cent of British men and 34 per cent of the women admit to getting drunk once a month.
A whole bottle of wine or an equivalent amount of alcohol in the form of other drinks was agreed as the limit of drunkenness.
In the study, Britain was followed by Finland: 49 per cent of men and 14 per cent of women admitted heavy drinking.
In France, Italy, Spain, and even in Norway the corresponding figures were significantly lower. Denmark was excluded from the comparison.
Especially the drinking habits of teenage girls are a growing cause for worry almost everywhere. According to a recently-published 2007 ESPAD (European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs) report, the binge drinking of Finnish teenagers is on the wane, but in Britain there are no signs of such development.
According to the ESPAD report, binge drinking among the 15 to 16-year-olds is extremely common in the UK, though not quite as common as in Denmark, the country that leads the statistics even in this category.
“What is extremely worrying, is the trend according to which girls get drunk even more often than boys. The change first occurred in Britain and now other countries are following suit”, explains Dr Patrick Miller of the University of the West of England, who took part in compiling the ESPAD report.
“Why this is, is anybody’s guess. Maybe it is a question of self-esteem, of girls feeling more vulnerable than boys”, Miller ponders.
Miller knows that more and more youngsters suffer from alcohol-related liver diseases.
Alcohol researchers blame the supermarkets for the development.
Martin Plant, professor of addiction studies at the University of the West of England, told the British Parliament last week: “Supermarkets at the moment are displaying the morality of the crack dealer. They have been told for several years that what they are doing is completely irresponsible. Cheap alcohol kills people.”
According to Miller there is only one solution to the problem. The price of alcohol has to be raised. “There is no evidence to support the effectiveness of information campaigns”, he adds.
Finland witnessed a sharp increase in alcohol consumption when prices were lowered some years ago, and since then the tax on alcohol has been raised on a couple of occasions, and rules on bulk discounts on beers sold in supermarkets have been tightened up considerably.
The coming weekend will nevertheless almost certainly see a riot of binge-drinking in Finland, as the annual May Eve and May Day celebrations have increasingly become an excuse to get wide-eyed and legless, even among those not of a legal age to drink.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Professor: Alcohol consumption could start to decline (25.11.2008)
Alcohol tax going up next year (19.11.2008)
Law does not stop minors from drinking on streets or at home (26.5.2008)