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OECD study blames women for the rise in U.K. alcohol consumption

An international study into alcohol consumption reveals that the U.K. ranks as the 11th heaviest drinking country out of the 40 countries examined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development — and suggests that professional women are the main culprits.

The report “Tackling Harmful Alcohol Use” found that each person in the U.K., on average, consumes 10.6 litres of pure alcohol a year — equal to 115 bottles of wine — compared with 9.5 litres across the OECD’s 34 member countries.

For the purposes of the report, a “hazardous amount” of alcohol is defined as a weekly consumption of 21 units or more for men and 14 units or more for women. For both sexes better educated drinkers are more likely to consume a hazardous amount than their less educated counterparts.

According to the report nearly one in five women from the highest educated group drinks to hazardous levels, compared to one in 10 women from the least educated group.

“Part of the story in this is the way work drinking habits have actually changed,” said OECD economist Mark Pearson, reports the BBC. “The more highly educated you are as a woman the more likely you are to be drinking. As more women have gone into professions, they have gone into high-end service industries that have a drinking culture, such as finance.”

Additionally the number of 15-year-old girls in the U.K. who have been drunk at least twice is higher than U.K. boys and the third highest in all OECD member countries. This may be due to the influence of their older female role models, suggested Pearson.

More: New alcoholic drink specifically “for women” needs to rethink its audience

Do we really believe that well-educated U.K. women are drinking to try to keep up with their male colleagues? I know a few high-flying ladies who could drink any man under the boardroom table.

That’s not the only embarrassing outcome of this report. Not only are we on the slippery slope towards binge-drinking to impress men, we’re setting a bad example to the younger generation while we’re at it.

Reports like this are alarming, of course, but these figures and findings are unlikely to shock the educated women of the country into pouring their Pinot Grigio stash down the plughole. They’re already well aware of the recommended alcohol intake guidelines and know all about the health risks of heavy drinking.

Pearson recommends that the U.K. considers taking tougher steps to reduce the country’s alcohol consumption, such as enforcing minimum pricing and clear labelling, banning sports sponsorship and improving access to treatment.

Perhaps less time and money should be spent compiling reports telling us what we already know and resources could be channelled into what is surely the crux of the issue: addressing why a growing number of Brits are putting their health at risk with their drinking habits. Because making wine more expensive is hardly going to deter those professional women, is it?

More on drinking

Can teenage drinking lead to alcoholism?
Why you shouldn’t get drunk around your kids
Understanding the high-functioning alcoholic

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