One of the many things I prefer about being in France to England, along with the superior food, beautiful architecture and even more beautiful language, is their civilised attitude to alcohol – cheap, freely available and not used by the authorities as an excuse to constantly tell the population how horrible and rubbish they are.
And that’s even before you take the potential long-term damage in to account – on top of the increased risk of various cancers, cirrhosis of the liver and heart disease, underage drinking can cause brain damage as the little grey cells are not yet fully developed. We are enabling a generation to run up who knows what health problems for themselves in the future and are all but turning a blind eye.
Alcohol misuse in the armed forces is “substantially higher” than the level expected for the general population, according to a parliamentary report, which also finds that in the military the misuse is four times more common than post-traumatic stress disorder.
The defence select committee calls for the Ministry of Defence to conduct an urgent study into the issue to examine why 13% of military personnel have got a “drink problem”, compared to 6% in the general population.
The report, published on Thursday, includes evidence from Gerry Berragan, a general, who claimed “there was significant misuse of alcohol in personnel under 35 – about twice as high as in broader society – with an even higher difference for women”.
This comes as Britain shakes off a collective hangover after Black Friday, the most popular night for office Christmas parties and the busiest of the year for drink-related casualties. Some ambulance services received 999 calls as frequently as every 30 seconds to deal with injured and drunk revellers.
New research from the Department of Health underlines how excess alcohol affects almost every aspect of British life. More than 2.6m children in the UK now live with a parent who drinks at hazardous levels. Mortality rates from liver disease among under-75s rose by 16 per cent between 2001 and 2009, new statistics show. And lost productivity because of hung over staff cost businesses £1.7bn a year.
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore
Chairman, UK Alcohol Health Alliance and Special Advisor on Alcohol, Royal
College of Physicians
Dr Hamish Meldrum
Chairman, British Medical Association Council
Head of Research and Communications, Institute of Alcohol Studies
Chief Executive, British Liver Trust
Professor Lindsey Davies
President, Faculty of Public Health
Professor Jon Rhodes
President, British Society of Gastroenterology
Dr Dominique Florin
Medical Director, Medical Council on Alcohol
Professor Eileen Kaner
Institute Director and Professor of Public Health Research, Institute of
Health and Society
Chief Executive, Action on Addiction