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Local Alcohol Profiles for England: New Figures Released

The alcohol profiles for every local authority in England were published online today by the North West Public Health Observatory, Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University.

Figures show the percentage of adults drinking at "hazardous" levels – regularly drinking between 22 to 50 units a week for men and 15 to 35 for women – is 20% for England overall, ranging from 14.1% to 26.4% across local authorities. The figures for harmful drinking rates – those where men and women exceeded hazardous levels – were 5%, with local authority estimates ranging from 3.2% to 8.8%.

The highest rates of hazardous drinking are found in affluent areas, mainly in the south of England, whereas the lowest rates are found in deprived areas. There is a well-established relationship between affordability of alcohol and the amount people drink, which is affected by both price and income. Put simply, you’re more likely to drink a lot if you can afford it easily.

Whilst there is a reasonably strong correlation between rates of hazardous drinking and harmful drinking, across the country, areas with the highest levels of hazardous drinking generally did not have the highest levels of harmful drinking. We can’t be sure of the reasons for this, but can speculate that this is part of a general trend for more affluent people to enjoy better health. That is, affluent people drink more, but when excessive drinking leads to problems, they are more likely to do something about it, such as seeking help to cut down, or medical treatment in the early stages of health problems.

Both hazardous and harmful drinking patterns are contributing to increasing levels of alcohol-related ill-health and pressures on health services across the whole country, the researchers said. The long-term problems include conditions such as liver disease, circulatory diseases and cancer. The short term problems include accidents and alcohol-related assaults.

The statistics also include figures for alcohol attributable hospital admission rates by local authority, alcohol-related recorded crimes and death rates from conditions related to alcohol. Areas with the highest levels of alcohol-attributable hospital admissions were largely the same as those with the highest levels of harmful drinking.

Whilst drinking levels have been relatively stable over the last decade, alcohol-related hospital admissions have been rising steadily. This probably reflects the fact that many of the hospital admissions are for conditions that develop over a number of years, so that admissions now relate to past drinking habits, not just current levels of drinking.