Few people in South West Understand the Health Risks of Drinking Alcohol
Only one in five link alcohol with breast cancer and one in four with dementia
Alcohol Awareness Week runs 14-18 November 2016
A South West survey shows that few people understand the health risks of drinking alcohol:
- Only 1 in 5 link alcohol with breast cancer
- Only 1 in 4 link alcohol with dementia
- Only 1 in 3 link alcohol with bowel cancer
- Only 1 in 2 link alcohol with stroke
Alcohol Awareness Week runs from 14-18 November. The theme this year is alcohol and health and understanding the associated risks
The aim of Alcohol Awareness week is to get people thinking about alcohol - how it affects us all as individuals, families, communities and society as a whole.
The South West study, carried out by Public Health Action on behalf of Local Authorities in the South West, shows that many people do not understand the full impact that drinking too much could have on their health. Whilst the vast majority of those at risk understand the connection between alcohol and liver disease (85%) or weight gain (84%), just one in five (21%) realise it is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, one in four (23%) associate it with dementia and half (53%) with a stroke.
The study involved a survey of 500 adults together with six focus groups run in locations across the region, where issues relating to alcohol were discussed. The aim was to find out more about the drinking habits and attitudes to alcohol of people in the South West, in order to understand the scale and nature of the issues and decide how to tackle them.
Steve Brown, Deputy Director of Public Health, Devon County Council, who led the commissioning for the PHA study explained:
"The study suggests that around 1.1million1 adults in the South West may be drinking too much alcohol but many simply do not recognise the health risks they are taking. For instance, some people we spoke to were shocked to discover the link between alcohol and breast cancer or dementia and they wanted to understand more about the harm it could potentially do to their health
"Around 4% of cancers in the UK every year are attributable to alcohol - that's about 12,800 individual cases every year. This makes alcohol one of the most preventable causes of cancer after smoking. However public awareness of these risks is low. Only one in five people we spoke to in the South West understand the links between alcohol and breast cancer for example, with the majority unaware of the long-term harm their drinking may be doing to their health."
Joanna Simons, Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern said:
"This study is further evidence that large numbers of people drinking at risky levels don't realise how much they're consuming, or what the risks are associated with alcohol."
"Alcohol is directly linked to over 60 medical conditions and continues to be the leading risk factor for deaths among men and women aged between 15 and 49 years in the UK.""To keep risks caused by alcohol to a minimum, the Government guidelines were changed earlier this year, advising people to not drink more that 14 units a week and to spread these units evenly over 3 or more days."
Notes to editors
Public Health Action is part of the South Central and West Commissioning Support Unit, and has a remit to change lifestyle behaviours such as drinking, smoking and physical activity, to have a positive impact on the health of our populations.
Previously known as Smokefree South West, the organisation has led on a number of high profile programmes including smokefree Millenium Square in Bristol, the first outdoor open space in the UK to have a voluntary smoking code, and a number of social marketing campaigns to change the behaviour of smokers and raise awareness of tobacco control issues.
Source: 1The study suggests 32% of people in the South West are in the high or increasing risk category. Based on population estimates for 2013 publiched by ONS (2014) and the areas covered by the survey, this equates to 1.14 million.