UK News

Government urged to hold new consultation on alcohol consumption

The Campaign for Real Ale says the public feel that government guidelines on alcohol consumption "are not credible and lack evidence"
Alan Jones and Ben Mitchell, Press Association

THE British government is being urged to hold a new consultation on alcohol consumption, after a study showed that most people believe that drinking in moderation is part of a healthy lifestyle.

A survey of more than 2,000 adults revealed that more than half disagreed with official health guidelines, and that they should be the same for men and women.

The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said its research showed that the health department should launch a public consultation on whether guidelines on drinking were "fit for purpose".

Scientific studies have shown that moderate drinking can have a protective effect against various health problems including cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline and certain forms of cancer, Camra said.

The campaign group said the studies were ignored in alcohol guidelines.

Speaking at the start of Camra's annual Great British Beer Festival in London, chairman Colin Valentine said: "The figures show that government advice on drinking is at odds with common sense.

"If the government wants people to take the guidance seriously then it needs to present people with realistic and believable advice, which they can use to judge their own risk when it comes to responsible drinking.

"If the public feels, as our figures suggest, that the guidelines are not credible and lack evidence, the danger is they will increasingly just ignore them.

"There are decades of international scientific evidence showing that moderate drinking can play an important part in a healthy and happy lifestyle.

"We'd like to see that research reflected in a more grown-up approach to help adults understand the risks and benefits associated with drinking."

Meanwhile, students suffering from debt worries at university are more at risk of suffering from depression and alcohol dependency, according to new research by the University of Southampton and Solent NHS Trust.

Researchers found that symptoms of mental health conditions worsened over time for those who were struggling to pay their bills.

Dr Thomas Richardson, who led the study published online in the Community Mental Health Journal, said: "The findings suggest a vicious cycle whereby anxiety and problem drinking exacerbate financial difficulties, which then go on to increase anxiety and alcohol intake.

"Interventions which tackle both difficulties at the same time are therefore most likely to be effective."

Researchers asked more than 400 first-year undergraduate students from universities across the UK to assess a range of financial factors including family affluence, recent financial difficulties and attitudes towards their finances, at four time points across their first year at university.

The study was designed to check on a number of time points to establish whether the financial difficulties or the poor mental health came first. The study also found that students who had considered not going to university or had considered abandoning their studies for financial reasons had a greater deterioration in mental health over time.

Andy Jones, a student of occupational therapy who had to halt his studies because of depression and not being able to financially support himself, said: "When I was not very well, I was not able to work part-time so was unable to supplement my income during university.

"Having financial difficulties increased my day-to-day stress levels and something usually had to give and it was usually my academic studies. It was a vicious cycle."

Dr Richardson, who has conducted staff training at universities on debt and mental health, added: "Coming to university can be a stressful and daunting time for young people and finances can cause a lot of worry.

"We might not be able to change how much debt students are in but we can work with them to help them manage their finances and worries about money in order to mitigate the impact of these worries on mental health."

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