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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 11:42 GMT
Have we turned into a nation of boozers?
Alcohol consumption in England has soared with drinkers in the north becoming the heaviest abusers, according to a new report.
The State of the Nation report produced by the charity Alcohol Concern reveals that half of men and a quarter of women in the north of England consume more alcohol than they should.
It shows that young people are following their elders' example, with 11 to 15-year-olds drinking alcohol at least once a week.
The report also highlighted that one person in 13 is dependent on alcohol, which is twice as many as are hooked on all other drugs, and that death rates from chronic liver disease have soared - with an eight-fold increase among men aged 35-44.
Have we turned into a nation of boozers? What can help to curb our intake?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I spent six years living and working in Corfu and was always ashamed of the UK lager louts - beer for breakfast, mid-morning, lunch etc... My Greek friends found it hard to understand why we drink so much. I just couldn't explain.
God, imagine experiencing this country sober.
This is getting a bit insidious, as one of the other Talking Points today is about a public ban on smoking. Anything remotely pleasurable is frowned upon! Well beer and fags may not be good for me, but if they weren't available the stress would kill me!! It's all about moderation...
Life's a stuff t'will not endure. Better to live well than long. Fetch me drink and lots of it!
Increasing licensing times in pubs will surely escalate the problem and NOT help resolve it!
I'm an ex-pat and didn't realise how severe Britain's alcoholism was until I came to the US. Here alcohol and its abuse is viewed much more seriously, much like drug abuse. In England, I remember people would often come to work stinking of alcohol from the night before and nobody thought anything of it.
Having worked for the past 20 years in the addictions field in the US, I can tell you that the scope of this problem is far beyond epidemic proportions. Alcohol abuse causes problems in relationships, families, work, and legal lives of millions. Calculating the total cost would be near impossible. This is another mess for future generations to sort out.
Sara, Northants, UK
Go to Ibiza, Faro, Corfu or any English tourist haven and you'll inevitably see young and not so young Brits making complete fools of themselves because they don't know when to stop. Frankly, it's quite pathetic. It's hard to understand why people seem to think that a good night out must end with unconsciousness, vomiting or a fight.
The thing that amazes me about British boozing is that they drink like college kids all into their adult lives. Folks in the US do the teen drinking and college-aged drinking thing to excess, but as we Yanks get older, most of us get tired of hangovers and throwing up on our dates' car floors. The Brits I've met who like to drink keep doing this well into their middle aged years. But, if I lived on a small island with crummy weather 11 months out of the year, I'd probably be driven to the drink, too.
In actual fact the Brits rank just below the halfway mark in the EU booze consumption league. Other countries such as France who we associate with more civilised drinking rate right at the top of the table. The key difference is that a Frenchman will enjoy a generous aperitif before dinner most nights, a bottle of wine with dinner and perhaps a digestive brandy to finish. Because all that alcohol is consumed as a complement to food we rarely see Frenchmen out of control in the pubs like we do here. They also have civilised licensing laws on the continent of course.
I visit the UK frequently and shake my head in dismay at the acceptance of alcoholic overindulgence as a norm, or something to be laughed at, regardless of age, education or income level. I would like to see an advertising blitz with a popular UK media figure persuading people to act otherwise.
Dan Garraway, UK
The UK public may well drink too much, but I love drinking and I think getting drunk is fun. There's no way around the fact that losing your inhibitions to some degree will make for a good night out. I felt this had to be said as there's no avoiding it in reality is there?
I totally agree we are a nation that drinks far too much. I travelled around the world recently and while other nations drank moderately and had a good time, the English backpackers bought the cheapest, strongest alcohol possible, got loaded, rude and often ended up fighting. All English people aren't like this but it is much more common with English people than other nationalities.
We Brits certainly have got ourselves quite a reputation over here for drinking more than is good for us!
If you think the northerners like a drink you should try Scotland. Now, where is that bottle?
As a foreigner, I always thought that British people drink more than necessary and sometimes drink just for the sake of drinking. But the pressures of life are just too much for some people to handle plus the fact that there is a cultural element into getting together in small, cosy places to interact socially (i.e. pubs). But do not despair, other nations have other more annoying habits.
I'm 17, and most of my friends drink themselves silly at weekends at parties at friends' houses. They don't do it because they like it, but because it is seen as a sign of maturity. This must change.
Drinking to excess? No thanks. But drinking regularly with meals, why not? Perhaps if parents set a good example for their children then less young people would grow up thinking that alcohol has one purpose - to get us drunk. A small glass of wine with a meal, a taste of beer at a family party or even champagne on special occasions is surely the most responsible way to introduce young people to alcohol. Banning young people from drinking alcohol completely can only lead to them being intrigued by it.
I think the statistics are being manipulated somewhat. Binge drinking is defined as two times the recommended daily limit, but this is four pints. Is four pints really a 'binge'? Or should we concentrate on warning the people who go out and drink themselves unconscious?
As a member of CAMRA I am very fond of beer, but only because I enjoy the varieties of flavours on offer. I never drink to get drunk. What is putting enormous pressure on teenagers is the macho philosophy that says the only purpose of drinking is to get drunk. It is like stuffing yourself silly every time you have a meal. You are missing the pleasure that comes when you feel full and stop short of excess.
James Mills, Gt. Bookham
Sadly, it seems that more and more people are happy to believe and follow what they see on TV. With shows like Eastenders and Coronation Street showing drinking as being OK any time of the day, it's no wonder some people have a drinking problem. I'm afraid you're still seen as an outcast if you don't drink.
All this talk of being an "outcast" if you don't drink is an incredulous generalisation. I have many friends who go to the pub and choose not to drink when they feel like not having alcohol. They are not ostracised by those who consume. Maybe it's something to do with the maturity of acquaintances. Must dash, pub opens in five.
Do us northerners like a drink? Oh yes, we certainly do. It's a good way to relax after work, eases social situations, and can sometimes be a good way to get away from the stresses of modern life, for a while.
Of course we must make sure that people know the dangers, and that there is support for when people lose control, but for the vast majority of drinkers, the existence of alcohol is a huge positive in their lives.
I find it hardly surprising if we have turned into a nation of boozers when university culture - and therefore the lives of the next generation - centres around the consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol. As a teetotaller, I resent the fact that a lot of student 'deals' focus on free alcohol and that on attending any party, there is invariably a copious quantity of alcohol around but little in the way of soft drinks. How can people ever learn that it is possible to live without getting drunk every night when they are shown no alternative?
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