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.