Drinking ourselves to death

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A FIFTH of Wiganers are drinking themselves into an early grave, according to a new report into alcohol consumption.

A report by the North West Public Health Observatory, at John Moore University, Liverpool, commissioned by the Department of Health estimates, that there are more than 66,000 people in the town deemed to be at risk due to drinking too much alcohol.

The report groups people into four categories – abstainers, lower risk, increasing risk and higher risk.

Abstainers are people who have consumed no units of alcohol on a weekly basis over the past 12 months.

Lower risk drinkers consumed up to 21 units a week (men) or zero and 14 units (women).

Increasing risk drinkers had between 21-50 units a week (men) and 14-35 units (women).

Higher risk drinkers consumed 50 units or more a week (men) or 35 units or more (women).

According to current guidelines, a pint of lager (four per cent) is 2.3 units, and a glass of wine (12 per cent) is 2.1 units.

The report suggests that in Wigan Borough 12.6 per cent of the population are abstinent, 60.5 per cent are lower risk drinkers, 20.7 per cent are increasing risk drinkers and 6.3 per cent are higher risk drinkers. This compares to the North west average of 14.7 per cent abstainers, 59.7 per cent lower risk, 19.3 per cent increasing risk and 6.3 per cent higher risk.

The report also points out that there are reasons to suspect that when people complete surveys they, for a number of reasons, may under report how many units they drink. This may be because they underestimate the number of units in their drink, they have not included drinks on holiday or at special occasions.

The physical effects of alcohol can impare the memory. So it is likely that these estimates in the report are underestimates – and a higher percentage of drinkers in Wigan should be in the increasing or higher risk categories.

Dr Kate Ardern, Executive Director of Public Health for Wigan, said: “Once again we see that excessive alcohol use is one of the major public health problems in the borough.

“The numbers in this report suggest there are more than 66,000 people in the increasing risk or higher risk category – and this may be an underestimate.

“Alcohol not only causes serious health problems but is also a factor in many road accidents, anti-social behaviour, street fights, unwanted pregnancies, domestic violence and crime.

“Industry in Wigan loses thousands of days due to people being off sick relating to alcohol and the staff of the Accident and Emergency Department at Wigan Infirmary have to cope with the effects of alcohol on Wigan people every weekend.

“Alcohol can ruin lives. I would ask the 51,000 people in the borough who’s drinking level puts them in the increasing risk category to consider reducing their drinking levels. The 15,000 in the higher risk bracket should seek help from their doctor before it is too late.”