More British women drinking to excess

LONDON Tue May 5, 2009 7:13pm EDT

Revellers queue to enter a night club during a ''Carnage'' event, in Lincoln, eastern England in this file photo from April 27, 2009. REUTERS/Darren Staples

Revellers queue to enter a night club during a ''Carnage'' event, in Lincoln, eastern England in this file photo from April 27, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Darren Staples

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - More British women are binge-drinking and while fewer children are drinking alcohol, those who do are guzzling more than in the past, according to research published Wednesday.

However, perhaps surprisingly, young men are consuming less than they were, the study found.

"Much concern has been expressed in recent years about young people binge-drinking in particular," said Lesley Smith, the lead author of the report by Oxford Brookes University.

"Many people will be surprised to learn that young men's drinking, including binge-drinking, has gone down in recent years, while middle age and older people's drinking has increased."

Britain has long had a problem with people consuming alcohol to excess, with binge-drinking blamed for rises in anti-social behavior and violence.

The government estimates that alcohol-related injuries and illnesses costs the state health system around 2.7 billion pounds a year.

Wednesday's report, which was commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, examined previous evidence on drinking trends from the last 20 to 30 years.

It found there was now heavier drinking among middle-aged and older groups, particularly those who were wealthier, while consumption among those in the 16 to 24-year-old age group had declined.

However the number of women who binge-drink had almost doubled to 15 percent between 1998 and 2006, although women were still less likely to drink than men, and were also likely to consume less.

The government has been running a series of information campaigns to warn about the dangers of excessive drinking, with official figures showing 37 percent of adults regularly exceed the recommended daily maximum units of alcohol.

Medical experts have called for a minimum price for alcohol to eliminate the sale of cheap booze, but while ministers have promised action on some discount promotions, they have indicated that they would not back a minimum price.

However, the government did raise tax on alcohol in last month's budget, adding about six pence to the pint of beer, much to the anger of the drinks industry which argues that consumption is already falling.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison)

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