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Health cost of alcohol high but awareness of risks low among Welsh drinkers

Alcohol-related illness is costing the NHS in Wales around £70m a year, Health Minister Lesley Griffiths warned at the start of Alcohol Awareness Week (19-25 November).
Monday 19 November 2012

New figures released as part of the Change4Life Wales campaign indicate that a significant majority of people in Wales underestimate the alcoholic content of the most common drinks the nation consumes.

The survey of over a thousand people across Wales showed that most knew the number of units of alcohol the average person could safely drink on a daily basis. The majority of respondents knew that the overall daily guideline for women is 2-3 units and for men is 3-4 units.

However most of those questioned under-estimated how many units there are in both beer and wine; the two most popular alcoholic drinks;

  • 56% underestimated the number of units in a standard 175 ml glass of wine (2.3 units);
  • 74% underestimated the alcohol content of a large 250ml glass of wine (3.3 units);
  • 76% underestimated the units in a pint of strong beer (3 units);
  • 52% underestimated the units in a can of ordinary strength beer (2 units).

The Change4Life Wales survey was carried out as part of the campaign entitled ‘Don’t let drink sneak up on you,’ which targets people who may be unaware that they are risking their health by drinking more than the government guidelines on a regular basis.

The campaign is designed to raise awareness of the risks of regular drinking at levels many people may regard as harmless, but over time can actually cause up to 60 different health conditions.  These include mouth, throat and larynx cancer, strokes, high blood pressure, liver damage, heart disease and reduced fertility.

Marking the start of Alcohol Awareness Week, Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said:

“It is very important that people are aware of the risks involved. We know that the cost of alcohol-related illness to the NHS in Wales amounts to around £70m a year. Often people associate health problems with binge drinking but drinking above the guidelines on a regular basis can potentially be just as damaging.”

The survey also revealed that 74% of people questioned believed their own drinking was below the government guidelines showing the need for people to be thinking about their drinking habits.

The Change4Life Wales website includes information on the campaign including an interactive drinks checker that enables visitors to work out how many units they drink as well as tips on how to cut down easily.



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Health and social care 19 November 2012 Healthier Wales Improving health Mid Wales North Wales South East Wales South West Wales

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