May 20, 2009 / 12:35 PM / 10 years ago

A quarter of Britons are "hazardous" drinkers

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Almost a quarter of Britons are “hazardous drinkers” and hundreds of thousands more of them are being admitted to hospital for alcohol-related reasons than five years ago, according to official figures.

A barman pulls a pint of beer at a public house in Leeds, northern England October 13, 2008. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

The statistics showed that 33 percent of men and 16 percent of women drank potentially dangerous amounts, the National Health Service (NHS) Information Center said.

Another 6 percent of men and 2 percent of women were harmful drinkers.

“Hazardous drinking” was defined as consumption which could bring about the risk of physical or psychological harm, while “harmful drinking” was described as likely to cause problems.

The report is the latest to show that many Britons consume too much alcohol, causing health problems and the suspicion it has led to 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.

The latest figures showed there were 863,300 alcohol-related admissions to hospital in 2007, an increase of 69 percent from five years earlier, 2002.

The number of deaths directly linked to alcohol was also up to 6,541, a rise of 19 percent since 2001, with liver disease the biggest killer.

The British 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.

But the opposition Conservatives say the government has not done enough. It is a strong critic of the 2005 decision to allow round-the-clock drinking in bars.

“These figures demonstrate Labor’s complete failure to tackle the growing problems caused by alcohol abuse,” said Conservative health spokesman Andrew Lansley.

“Labor’s irresponsible decision to roll out 24-hour drinking on our towns and communities has not helped. Unless they get a grip of the situation, and quickly, the cost to society and the NHS is only going to increase.”

Steve Barnett, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, which groups all the state health service organizations, called for more community detox services.

“NHS organizations have seen significant increases in alcohol-based admissions in the last 10 years,” he said. “The direct effects for the NHS range from public health problems to pressure on ambulance service resources and staff safety.”

Editing by Steve Addison

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