Page last updated at 23:06 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 00:06 UK

Female binge drink rates 'double'

Drunk woman
There is concern that more women are drinking heavily

The percentage of women who binge drink has doubled since the 1990s, research has found.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation study found 15% of women now binged on alcohol each week. In men, the figure stood at 23% - a small rise on previous statistics.

During the last 20 years, there has been a general increase in drinking in nearly all age groups in the UK.

Campaigners said the findings showed drinking was a problem across society.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation commissioned researchers from Oxford Brookes University to look at a range of sources for the research, including Office for National Statistics data and government reports.

This report clearly shows that risky alcohol consumption isn't just occurring within a few minority groups
Don Skenker, of Alcohol Concern

They found that average alcohol consumption had risen for both men and women since the mid 1990s.

The studies used suggested weekly intakes for men now stood at between 18 and 19 units, up from 15 to 16, and for women it was currently nine to 10, up from six to seven.

Men aged 45 to 64 were the biggest drinkers, consuming over 20 units a week on average, overtaking 16 to 24-year-old men who were the biggest drinkers a couple of years ago.

But it is the binge drinking figures which were perhaps the most surprising.

They showed that men who binge drink at least once a week had risen to 23%, up from 22% in 1998, but again drinking levels for the 16 to 24 age group had fallen.

For women, the rate had risen from 7% to 15% during the period, with rises seen for each age group.

The researchers said the rise in female drinking was likely to be linked to greater financial security and the influence of advertising.

Surprising

Other trends highlighted in the report included large rises in Northern Ireland, which was put down to a relaxation in the licensing laws and growth of the leisure industry since the peace process began, and changes in children's drinking habits.

The researchers said while fewer children were drinking, those that did were consuming more than they used to.

The study suggests average weekly intake had more than doubled since 1990 for both girls and boys aged 11 to 15.

Alcohol Concern Chief Executive Don Shenker said: "This report clearly shows that risky alcohol consumption isn't just occurring within a few minority groups.

"The government urgently needs to broaden its focus to reduce harms from alcohol across the whole population."

But a Department of Health spokesman said that tackling high levels of drinking was a priority.

"In the past year we have announced a package of measures to tackle excessive drinking and reduce alcohol health harm.

"For those young people who do develop problems there are record numbers of treatment places available."



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