What are the impacts?
Alcohol has been identified as the third biggest risk to health in developed countries [Alcohol Concern, 2006].
The use of alcohol is embedded within British culture. However, for some people, social drinking can lead to heavier drinking, leading to excessive, hazardous or harmful alcohol consumption and sometimes dependence (collectively known as problem use of alcohol).
Binge drinking is becoming a major problem in the UK. Binge drinking is defined as drinking eight or more units of alcohol in one session for men, and more than six units in one session for women.
Problem use of alcohol can cause serious social, psychological and health problems, affecting work, social and personal relationships. Health risks associated with heavy drinking include:
- liver disease (cirrhosis of the liver),
- alcohol-related anaemia and nutritional disease,
- chronic calcifying pancreatitis
- heart muscle damage (cardiomyopathy),
- alcoholic dementia, and
- psychiatric disorders.
Adverse health outcomes resulting from alcohol use are common among young people and many alcohol-related deaths occur relatively early in life.
They also include intentional and unintentional injuries, both of which are related to patterns of drinking. The negative social consequences include missing school, falling behind in schoolwork, unplanned and unprotected sexual activity, arguments with friends, destructive behaviour and trouble with the police (WHO, 2004).
For more information please use the following links:
What is the scale of the problem?
Wales Observatory produced ‘A Profile of Alcohol and Health in Wales’, which provides a detailed analysis of the position in respect of alcohol consumption and harm across . In Wales , 45 per cent of adults consume more than the recommended limits and 27 per cent participate in binge drinking.The comparison of alcohol sales with the reported alcohol use also suggests that people are consuming more alcohol than they estimate they are. Wales
Alcohol consumption in the
has increased over the past decade, as have deaths and diseases related to alcohol. The estimated health service cost in UK of alcohol related chronic disease and acute incidents is between £70 million and £85 million each year. Wales
In the Welsh Health Survey, 40 per cent of adults in
reported that their average alcohol consumption on a day of consuming alcohol was above the recommended guidelines of no more than four units a day for men and no more than three units per day for women. This varies by region, with the highest rates in Wales Merthyr Tydfil and lowest rates in Ceredigion.
Data from the Health Behaviour in School Aged Children (HBSC) Survey shows that seven per cent of 11-year old girls and 12 per cent of 11-year old boys in
reported drinking any alcohol on a weekly basis. For 13-year olds nearly a quarter of girls and a third of boys in Wales reported drinking any alcoholic drink weekly. Of all the countries participating in the HBSC survey, Wales has the highest proportion of 15 year olds that reported drinking on a weekly basis (over 50 per cent of girls and almost 60 per cent of boys). Wales
What can you do?
A healthy lifestyle can include moderate use of alcohol. More about healthy alcohol use is available from the NHS Direct Wales website at: http://www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk/LifestyleWellbeing/Alcohol/ and the NHS Choices website at: http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/alcohol/Pages/Alcoholhome.aspx
Alcohol Concern Cymru also produces a web-based interactive healthy guide to enjoying a drink, which includes facts about alcohol and tips for reducing consumption. Available at: http://www.drinkwisewales.org.uk/home.php
What is being done to manage the impact?
Public Health Wales is currently rolling out a programme of Alcohol Brief Advice training for Primary Care staff (November 2010). Alcohol brief advice is described as a short, evidence-based, structured conversation about alcohol consumption with a patient to motivate and support the individual to think about and/or plan a change in their drinking behaviour in order to reduce their consumption.
The first full training course has taken place with attendees made up of General Practitioners, Nurses, Prison staff and Pharmacists. A second training course is planned for early 2011.
- A profile of alcohol and health in Wales (2009)
- Briefing paper delivering Alcohol Brief Advice (2010)
The public’s health would benefit from an overall reduction in the number of people who drink more than the recommended guidelines. The two mechanisms that have been shown to produce a substantial reduction in alcohol consumption are increased price and reduced availability. These are difficult issues for a devolved assembly.
, the 10 year Welsh Assembly Government substance misuse strategy launched November 2008 includes the misuse of alcohol alongside the misuse of illegal drugs. This is different from the situation in Wales where illegal drugs are dealt with by a separate strategy. Within England , Community Safety Partnerships now have responsibility for the delivery of the WAG strategy. This focuses attention on the community safety and crime and disorder aspects of alcohol misuse. Wales
However the Public Health Wales Vulnerable Groups team took the lead role in the development of an Alcohol Treatment Framework published by the Welsh Assembly Government in June 2008.
Your local public health team will have a strategy that includes activities to address the health specific aspects of alcohol misuse.
For more information please use the following links:
- Community safety partnerships
- Crime and Disorder
- Drug Misuse
- Health needs assessment 2006: Substance misuse
- NICE guidance on alcohol use disorders – preventing harmful drinking
- Cochrane Drug and Alcohol Group’s paper on the effectiveness of brief interventions for alcohol (2007)
- Alcohol Concern policy reports: