Page last updated at 10:01 GMT, Thursday, 2 July 2009 11:01 UK

Four pints 'increase health risk'

Pint of beer
The study followed the drinking habits of thousands of men

Men who drink four pints of beer a week could be increasing the risk of needing hospital treatment during their lifetime, a study has suggested.

Researchers studied 5,772 Scottish men for up to 35 years.

They found those who drank between eight and 14 units a week were more likely to be admitted to hospital than those who drank fewer units or nothing.

That is the equivalent of four pints of beer, eight shots of spirits or eight small glasses of wine.

The men, from Glasgow, Clydebank and Grangemouth, were all aged between 35 to 64 when they were recruited between 1970 and 1973.

Drinkers were also likely to be kept in hospital for longer than people who drank less or abstained, according to the research by the universities of Glasgow and Bristol, which has been published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

This study confirms that people exceeding the recommended limits for alcohol are adding to the burden on the NHS
Professor Ian Gilmore
Royal College of Physicians

The risk rose again for men who drank between 14 and 21 units, which is the government's recommended weekly maximum.

The report found that as average alcohol intake increased, the risk of being admitted to hospital and the length of stay also rose.

It concluded that the overall effects of alcohol were "substantial" and added: "Alcohol consumption has a notable effect on health service utilisation and therefore NHS costs."

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: "This study confirms that people exceeding the recommended limits for alcohol are adding to the burden on the NHS through longer hospital stays.

"It is vital that government and health professionals join forces to reinforce the risks of alcohol misuse across a wide range of medical complications."

A spokeswoman for the UK government's Department of Health said alcohol abuse was one of the most challenging public health issues faced by the country.

Health campaigns

She added: "We are working harder than ever to reduce alcohol-related hospital admissions, and to help those who regularly drink too much or are dependent on alcohol.

"There are a number of public health campaigns to help people understand government guidelines around drinking alcohol. Ongoing and future campaigns will also help people to live more healthily.

"Government is consulting on a draft mandatory code for alcohol retailing, which should restrict irresponsible ways of promoting alcohol and ensure information on alcohol units and government guidelines is widely available."

Earlier this week an NHS study suggested that alcohol may have caused the death of twice as many Scots as previously thought.

Reacting to that news, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the figures showed alcohol abuse was the biggest public health challenge the country faced.

"Drinking alcohol is part of Scottish culture, but it's clear that many people are drinking too much and damaging their health in the process," she said.

"The Scottish Government has made crystal clear our determination to get to grips with it."

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