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Wednesday, April 14, 1999 Published at 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK


A third of women 'outdrink their men'

Women are drinking more heavily

A third of women regularly drink more than their partners, according to a survey of drinking habits.

Many are worried about their alcohol intake, but are confused about government recommended levels for safe drinking.

The findings of the survey by Family Circle magazine and the Portman Group, the representative of the drinks industry, is being presented to public health minister Tessa Jowell at a reception on Wednesday.

The poll of 400 women shows that one in 10 are drinking more than 21 units of alcohol a week.

Government guidelines say women should drink no more than two to three units a day.

A unit is equivalent to a glass of wine.

Long-term effects

One in five says they are worried about the amount they are drinking and a quarter are concerned about the possible long-term effect on their health.

Most women say they drink because they like the taste of alcohol, but some cite stress as a factor.

Government research shows the number of women who drink heavily is increasing.

[ image: Confusion reigns about safe drinking levels]
Confusion reigns about safe drinking levels
A recent report says 13% of women are drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week and two percent are downing more than 35 units a week.

In the late 1980s, only 8% were drinking over 14 units a week.

The Family Circle survey says older women drink more often, with 21% of over-55s drinking daily.

But women under 35 are more likely to drink to excess. A third say they drink to make them more sociable and many have no problem going to the pub alone.

Single women and those without children are the heaviest drinkers.

Sir Cliff Richard

Wine was the top choice of most women and their ideal drinking partners were Sir Cliff Richard, George Clooney and Sean Connery.

Forty-eight per cent said they felt more passionate after a drink.

The survey is part of Family Circle's Cheers without Tears campaign which aims to education women on recommended alcohol levels.

[ image: Sir Cliff Richard: women's ideal drinking partner]
Sir Cliff Richard: women's ideal drinking partner
Sue James, the magazine's publishing director, said: "Our research reiterates that too many women are still unaware of exactly what's in their glass."

Jean Coussins, director of the Portman Group, said: "Most women already do drink sensibly, but a minority need more information about the risks they are taking."

The charity Alcohol Concern said it welcomed any effort to explain what recommended sensible drinking levels were.

However, a spokesman added: "We do not necessarily think the Portman Group is the right organisation to run a campaign as it represents the drinks trade.

"More money should be raised independently to run a major alcohol education campaign about the limits, especially since the death of the Health Education Authority's Drinkwise campaign several years ago."

The charity says the campaign could be funded from a levy on alcohol advertisements.

Changing social attitudes

The Institute for Alcohol Studies says research shows women are drinking more because of changing social attitudes, the increasing accessibility of alcohol and because the advertising industry is targeting them.

It adds that evidence exists that women suffer harm at lower levels of alcohol consumption than men.

This is not only because of differences in body weight, but also variations in their fat to water ratio.

They may also have lower levels of an enzyme that breaks down alcohol.

Women are more prone to liver damage than men and develop cirrhosis and hepatitis after a comparatively shorter period of heavy drinking than men.

Excess alcohol consumption has also been linked to breast cancer, infertility and foetal damage.

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