Middle class over 45-year-olds now the most frequent drinkers

The middle class people over the age of 45 are now the most frequent drinkers in England, new NHS figures show.

The findings add to growing concern over middle class drinkers and the damage their habits are doing to their bodies.

Earlier this year a report by the National Audit Office, the Government watchdog, warned that 10 million Britons were now drinking to "hazardous" levels.

A survey conducted by the NHS Information Centre shows that 30 per cent of men and 19 per cent of women in the highest earning bracket admitted that they had drunk alcohol five nights or more in the previous week, twice as much as in the lowest wage bracket.

The middle aged were also much more likely than young people or thirtysomethings to drink frequently.

The highest rate was among men aged 55 to 64, 33 per cent of whom said that they had drunk five or more days out of the last seven.

Among women, 19 per cent of 65 to 74-year-olds admitted that they drank that often.

By contrast just 12 per cent of male and 5 per cent of female 16 to 24-year-olds said that they drank that frequently.

And overall 22 per cent of men and 13 per cent of women said that they had gone without alcohol for two days or less in the previous week.

While previous studies have concentrated on younger binge drinkers this is the first to suggest so starkly that middle class over 45-year-olds top the league table for frequent drinking.

The survey also found that levels of obesity have almost doubled in 14 years, from 16 per cent of men and 13 per cent of women in 1993 to 24 per cent of both sexes in 1997.

The breakdown of the figures on alcohol contained in the annual Health Survey for England report also show that almost one third of men and more than one quarter of women admit they drank excessively at least one day in the previous week.

It also discloses that few people know the recommended daily alcohol limits.

Men are advised to drink no more than three to four units a day, the equivalent of two pints of beer, and women two to three glasses of wine, the amount contained in one and a half standard glasses of wine.

Less than a third of people knew their safe limits, the study shows.

The survey also showed that while most knew that they should be eating five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, only 14 per cent of men and 11 per went of women knew how much should be contained in a portion, the survey also found.

Dr Mark Davies, medical director of the NHS Information Centre and a practising GP, said it was of "concern" that messages of safe alcohol intake, as well as those on exercise levels and healthy eating, did not seem to be getting through to all sections of the population.

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said: "Labour's neglect over issues like obesity and alcohol abuse will leave a terrible legacy for the next Government to try and fix" and called for urgent action on public health problems.
source: Telegraph