Alcohol deaths in young women show 'worrying rise'

Deaths from alcohol-related disease
in young women are rising, contrary
to the overall trend, a study
suggests.
Experts looked at deaths in men and
women of all ages in Glasgow, Liverpool
and Manchester from 1980 to 2011.
They said the results for women born in
the 1970s should be a "warning signal"
about their drinking habits.
They say minimum pricing, shelved this
week as a plan to tackle binge drinking
by the government in England and
Wales, would help address the issue.
Almost 9,000 people die from conditions
related to alcohol each year in the UK.
This study, detailed in the Journal of
Epidemiology and Community Health,
looked at patterns of alcohol-related
mortality in the three cities, which all
have similar patterns of deprivation, poor
health and industrialisation.
It compared trends in alcohol-related
deaths of people born between 1910 and
1979.
Women born in the 1970s started drinking
during the rise of the "ladette culture", say
experts
Overall, men were much more likely to
die from alcohol-related disease than
women - and the age range most
affected was people in their 40s and
50s.
But while rates have plateaued or even
fallen slightly for the majority, that is not
true for the youngest group of women -
those born in the 1970s - for whom the
death rate actually increased in all three
cities.
'Hard to dismiss'
A "snapshot" example cited by the
researchers compares death rates for
women born in different cohorts when
they reached the age of 34.
For those born in the 1950s, it was a
rate of eight per 100,000; for those
born in the 1960s - 14 per 100,000,
while for those born in the 1970s it rose
to 20 per 100,000.
However for men, comparable figures
showed a recent decrease.
For the 1950s cohort it was 22 per
100,000 rising to 38 per 100,000 in the
1960s - but falling to 30 per 100,000
for the 1970s.
Sally Marlow, from the Institute of
Psychiatry at Kings College London, told
BBC Radio 4's Today programme the
report was the first indicator there may
be a "ticking time bomb" of alcohol
problems in women.
She said women born in the 1970s
would have started drinking during the
rise of the "ladette culture" in the 1990s.
"We had women very out there,
embracing male behaviours - one of
which was excessive drinking," she said.
She added that women suffer greater
levels of harm than men at lower levels
of drinking, meaning they more
vulnerable to developing alcohol-related
problems such as liver disease.
Writing in the journal, the team led by Dr
Deborah Shipton, said it was "imperative
that this early warning sign is acted
upon".
"Failure to have a policy response to this
new trend may result in the effects of
this increase being played out for
decades to come."
'Cultural influences'
The team behind the report suggests that
cheaper alcohol, which is more widely
available, combined with better
marketing and longer drinking hours will
all have played their part in fuelling the
problem.
Dr Shipton told the BBC it was "a shame"
minimum pricing had been rejected in
England and Wales.
She said it was one measure which
would help tackle the problem, although
it would not address the "deep-rooted
cultural influences at play".
A spokesman for the Department of
Health said the chief medical officer was
currently looking at alchol unit
information to see if it could be made
more helpful to consumers.
He added: "DH spokesperson said: "We
know that more action is needed to raise
awareness of the dangers of alcohol.
"That's why we're banning alcohol sales
below the level of duty plus VAT to are
tackle the worst cases of super cheap
and harmful alcohol, meaning it will no
longer be legal to sell a can of ordinary
lager for less than around 40p.
"We're also strengthening the ban on
irresponsible promotions in pubs and
clubs and challenging industry to
increase its efforts through the
responsibility deal. "
Scotland's government is still committed
to bringing in a minimum price of 50p
per unit.
However the law will not be implemented
until legal proceedings, brought by the
Scotch Whisky Association, are complete.
Northern Ireland is yet to put forward a
specific proposal, although it is reviewing
pricing.