Report from OECD reveals how drinking habits in Britain compare internationally
UK women have topped the list for heavy episodic drinking (defined as having six drinks or more in a single session) in a new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with 26% doing this at least once a month.
The OECD urged ministers to adopt stricter policies to target heavy drinkers, including MUP for alcohol, the introduction of warning labels, and advertising restrictions to prevent the promotion of alcoholic drinks.
In response, chief executive of the Institute of Alcohol Studies Dr Katherine Severi called for a national alcohol strategy: ‘It’s concerning to see that men and women in the UK are more likely to drink heavily than in other developed countries … Alcohol is the leading risk factor for death and ill-health in people aged 15–49 due to its links with cancers, stroke and cardiovascular disease. This not only shatters families but places a huge financial burden on the NHS and wider economy.’
Dr Richard Piper, chief executive of Alcohol Change UK, added: ‘Alcohol causes too much harm here in the UK. But this is totally avoidable. There is an overwhelming need for the government to introduce measures that we know will reduce alcohol harm and save lives, such as proper controls on alcohol marketing, introducing minimum unit pricing in England like we already have in Scotland and Wales, and clearer alcohol labelling.’
Alcohol Change UK’s New Horizons projects complete
Alcohol Change UK has published the final reports from four projects funded via their flagship New Horizons programme.
The key focus of the New Horizons programme was exploring how people’s experience of alcohol harm is affected by their membership of, identification with or exclusion from groups and communities.
These include projects on solutions for South Asian women, a study of alcohol use and harm among people who identify as Roma, Gypsies and Travellers, and an exploration of the association between mental health and alcohol use among minority ethnic groups.
While each project had distinct findings, all four identified a common theme in the concept of belonging, and how a sense a community could be both a help and a hindrance to managing alcohol consumption.
Alcohol Action Ireland campaigns highlight the voices of people who have experienced alcohol harm
Alcohol Action Ireland recently launched a new campaign, Voices of Recovery, aiming to harness the lived experience of people in recovery from alcohol and to drive policy change.
The initiative, led by those in recovery, hopes to remove the stigma around getting treatment for alcohol problems and to advocate for evidence-based policy change on issues such as better alcohol treatment services, curbs on alcohol marketing, and holding the alcohol industry to account for the harm that its product causes. Those in long-term recovery, allies and organisations can sign a charter indicating their support.
Alcohol Action Ireland’s annual End the Silence campaign was another week of activities in October, raising awareness about the issues arising from parental problem alcohol use. The campaign was given added urgency, with recent research in Ireland highlighting that a quarter of the adult population, almost a million people, have grown up with alcohol harm in the home. There was an emphasis throughout the week on intersectional issues such as mental health and domestic violence, and a call to ensure that children’s voices are not ignored.
Catch up with the End the Silence webinars, listen back to Alcohol Action Ireland’s podcast on listening to children, and read a policy briefing on problem alcohol use in the home.
The price of alcohol: explained
The Institute of Alcohol Studies has published the second in its new ‘Explained’ video series, focusing on the price of alcohol.
Reducing the affordability of alcohol is one of the most powerful tools at the UK government’s disposal to tackle alcohol harm. At the same time, capping the price of a pint is a frequent political tool deployed to appeal to the public. So what is the real relationship between cost and consumption, and how does this impact the nation’s health and the economy?
This video explains how the cost of alcohol impacts consumption rates and subsequent harm, how alcohol duties have changed over time, how MUP works and whether it is effective in reducing drinking, and the cost of alcohol harm to the economy.
Alcohol is Toxic campaign in the north east
A new campaign from Balance, the north east alcohol programme, has launched this week, highlighting that alcohol causes seven types of cancer.
Ailsa Rutter OBE,director of Fresh and Balance, said: ‘We don’t think about alcohol as a group 1 carcinogen like tobacco. Unlike on a cigarette packet, the fact that alcohol causes cancer is not on the label. But that is exactly what alcohol is – and to humans it is toxic.
‘Two out of three people in the north east are not even aware alcohol causes cancer, but we know there is strong support to have more information. People have a right to know that alcohol is harmful to health and campaigns like this are a vital part of enabling people to make more informed decisions.’
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, added: ‘Awareness that alcohol causes seven types of cancer is worryingly low among the public. Current labelling practices from the alcohol industry keep consumers in the dark about the health risks associated with their products. Measures such as bold public health campaigns, like this one from Balance, are important to inform consumers about these risks and allow them to make healthier choices.’
The campaign is supported by Cancer Research UK.
MCA annual symposium on alcohol and health
Medical Council on Alcohol
22 November 2023
Royal College of Physicians, London
Meet the Members
Every month, we speak to a member of the AHA to find out more about what they do and how their organisation is working to end alcohol harm.
Today we meet Amy Dickson, trustee for Nacoa, who has worked with the charity since 2020 as a volunteer fundraiser and speaker, who draws on her experience of having a father who was ill with, and subsequently died from, alcohol use disorder.
How does your organisation help to reduce alcohol harm?
Nacoa provides national help and support through its free, confidential helpline for children and adults affected by a parent’s drinking. Through research and policy influence, it also leads in parliament in the media to raise awareness of this vulnerable group.
What inspires you most in your job?
Absolutely everything that Nacoa does is inspirational to me. They are the people I wish I’d had growing up.
The Nacoa staff and volunteers all come with their own experiences, understanding and a very simple desire to make sure others don’t feel as alone as they did.
Having an alcohol-dependent parent is often completely overwhelming and the impact on you as a child (of any age) can be enormous. Help is hard to come by and many don’t talk about the ‘family secret’ because of fear of judgement or repercussions.
It is imperative that the stigma around alcohol addiction is broken to allow people to seek the help they need. It is not OK that 1 in 5 children in the UK currently live with a parent who drinks hazardously.
What change do you think would make the biggest difference in reducing alcohol harm?
Simple. If the government reinstated its strategy to support children of alcoholics.
In 2021 the UK government cut all its funding for dedicated support for children affected. It is estimated that there are 3 million children in the UK living with parental alcohol problems and they need help.