Sunday 25 February 2018

It must be wine o'clock: Middle classes ignoring alcohol risks

'Respectable drinking' also means high rates among over-55s

A daily glass of wine – or two – is now an ingrained habit for middle-class drinkers, despite the risks.
A daily glass of wine – or two – is now an ingrained habit for middle-class drinkers, despite the risks.
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A daily glass of wine - or two - is now an ingrained habit for middle-class drinkers, despite the risks.

Almost two thirds of people on higher incomes who drink do so at least once a week, according to the latest Healthy Ireland survey. But nearly half are consuming alcohol on "multiple days" and many have weekly binge sessions as well.

Click to view full size graphic
Click to view full size graphic

Those in the 55-64 age group are also the most likely to drink frequently. But rates are also high among the over-65s - highlighting how many pensioners have fallen into potentially dangerous patterns. They are less able to cope with the effects of alcohol and it is likely to mask feelings of isolation and loneliness.

The research confirms the worrying extent of a so-called culture of "respectable drinking". This is typically highlighted by the ritual of winding down with a beer or large glass of wine at the end of the day.

Less well-off groups now drink less frequently, although one third say they indulge several times a week, the Department of Health report showed.

They are more likely to binge drink, although the difference among the classes is not that marked.

Obesity expert Professor Donal O' Shea warned yesterday that alcohol, apart from other risks, is a high source of calories and a contributor to the nation's weight crisis.

The Department of Health released more survey findings confirming ongoing worrying rates of poor eating, lack of physical exercise and smoking.

Prof O'Shea said it was a "disgrace" that last week's Budget has no targeted funding for the Government's much-vaunted obesity plan launched last month.

While health officials pointed to the €5m 'Healthy Ireland' fund, he said this will not be used for the treatment of obesity.

The research found no fall in levels of overweight and obese people compared to last year. One third of the population is overweight and another 23pc obese. Women who are overweight or obese are more likely to be trying to diet and exercise than men.

Another depressing finding shows that high numbers of people are taking little or no exercise. One third of people admit to having "low activity levels", which is identical to last year. Half of women aged 55 and over do little exercise - or none at all - compared to 38pc of men of the same age.

The news was also grim when it comes to our smoking habits, with no improvement noted. Some 23pc of people over the age of 15 are smokers and one in five of these lights up daily.

The extent of addiction puts a question mark over the impact of extra taxes on a packet of cigarettes on Budget day.

Women are more likely to take up the smoking habit.

Just 10pc of those who tried to quit cigarettes managed to give them up, with many of these crediting their own willpower. One in three who tried to quit turned to e-cigarettes as a nicotine alternative.

The majority of us are not getting our five-a-day of fruit and vegetables - just 27pc are managing to follow this golden rule.

Over a quarter have a long-standing illness or health problem.

Commenting on the findings, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said they showed the most common unhealthy lifestyle habits.

"Three quarters of the population eat fewer than five portions of fruit and vegetables daily.

"Between a fifth and a third of the population have each of the other three behaviours - binge drinking (28pc), sedentary behaviour (26pc) and smoking (23pc.)."

Minister for Health Promotion Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said the majority of chronic diseases are preventable.

She appealed to communities to make positive changes and influence the wider environment to allow more people make healthier choices in their daily lives.

Irish Independent

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