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WMN opinion: It is not just the young who are drinking too much

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 13, 2012

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Fancy a tipple? A sundowner? A nightcap? A sharpener? A pint, or a glass of wine?

Drinking. Most of us do it, lots of us love it, many enjoy it, some of us are addicted to it.

Alcohol is the drug around which many of our social lives revolve. Whether it be one glass or half a bottle, a couple of cans or a crate, a single or a double, there are few occasions when alcohol is not around. And hallelujah to that, because for many of us, there are few things more pleasurable in life than a pint before the match, a glass of wine with a meal, or a gathering in the pub with friends or family.

The trouble is, more of us than would like to admit it drink too much.

Sometimes it is too easy to think that the problems alcohol cause are other people's problems.

They are youngsters problems, binge drinking on Newquay beach, brawling in Union Street, and being out of control, incoherent, and pretty threatening in otherwise deserted village squares and market town centres all over the South West.

But, as today's alcohol harm report shows, this view does not reflect the whole picture accurately.

In Devon 30 per cent of adults are drinking at levels which increase the risk of damaging their health.

About 7 per cent, approximately 40,000 people, are drinking at very heavy levels that will already have affected their health.

The figures for Cornwall show that 23 per cent of people in the Duchy are drinking at health-affecting levels.

But what is even more surprising is the age-profile of the drinkers that the report – produced by Alcohol Concern – says are the biggest greatest burden on the NHS.

The figures reveal the inpatient cost of the 55-74 age group in Cornwall, closely aligned to the baby boom generation, is over eighteen times greater than the 16-24 age group.

Furthermore, the baby boom generation inpatient costs in Cornwall are greater than the 16-24 age group inpatient costs plus all alcohol related A&E costs put together.

The report is quite an eye-opener, and analysts say that middle-aged and middle-class drinkers who are regularly drinking above recommended limits, and who are requiring complex and expensive NHS care.

So when we joke: "I shouldn't really, should I?" we probably shouldn't.

What we should probably do is to think about what and when we are drinking, and make sure that alcohol remains an enjoyable, fun, and healthy part of our lives.

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Yesterday's opening of John Lewis in Exeter has been long-awaited and much talked about around many kitchen tables. The top notch retailer will take Exeter's shopping experience to an new level. We hope others in the peninsula will respond with innovation and vigour, so that shopping in every town and city will continue to thrive.

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