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Should we introduce minimum drink prices? Manchester’s shocking alcohol statistics

By Mihaela Ivantcheva

In a pre-Christmas spirit, spirits might be higher in demand than usually. In light of recent concerns over increasing alcohol-related hospital admissions in Greater Manchester and ongoing discussion by MPs about introducing minimum prices for drinks, MM looks at the alcohol image of Manchester.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph last week, leading health experts and organisations urged the Coalition Government to revise its alcohol policy and address the problem of cheap alcohol.

According to the letter, stronger pricing policy and more stringent alcohol taxation should put an end to alcohol sold at ‘pocket-money prices’ and the health and social hazards related to alcohol misuse.

“We urgently need to raise the price of cheap drink. Harmful drinkers and young people are likely to be the most responsive to price increases,” the letter states.

However, opponents of the notion say that the policy is unfair, as it would penalise all drinkers and would not really tackle alcohol-related deaths and crime.

The appeal to consider a minimum price for drinks in the UK follows recent reports showing record highs in alcohol-related hospital admissions and a strong link to new cancer cases as well as deaths from alcohol-related diseases.

National statistics show that alcohol is associated with one in four deaths among young people aged 15 to 24. According to the NHS Information Centre, the number of admissions to hospital in England related to alcohol has topped 1 million, up 12 per cent compared to the 2008/09 figures.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Britain is among the top 20 countries with highest alcohol consumption globally.

In light of these developments and recent concerns over increasing alcohol-related hospital admissions in Greater Manchester, MM looks at how Manchester has scored in terms of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems over the past couple of years.

New statistics for 2010-2011 reveal that Manchester shows the highest number of people hospitalised by alcohol. With 3,279 alcohol-related hospital admissions per 100,000 population, Manchester scores worst nationally, followed by Middlesbrough with 3,279 and Salford with 3,197.

Interestingly, although the historical data follows a slow but steady increase in alcohol-related hospital admissions since 2007, violent crime caused by alcohol misuse has significantly gone down since 2007.

According to the North West Public Health Observatory, however, on most of the indicators Manchester scores worse than the national as well as regional average.

The data reveals high alcohol-specific mortality rates – health conditions that are wholly related to alcohol. Among all 326 local authorities in England, Manchester is one of the worst in terms of people with health problems that are in some way or the other attributable to alcohol.

Michael Linnell from the Lifeline Project in Manchester confirms that over the years alcohol consumption has gone up in our society.

Mr Linnell says that, along with other factors, there are cultural differences and idiosyncrasies that needs to be considered when discussing alcohol consumption. “There are cultural reasons that need to be taken into account. We use alcohol for example in a very different way from the Dutch people and other people in Europe and the Americas,” Mr Linnell says.

 

Alcohol profile of Manchester

Alcohol-attributable mortality males for 2009 – 69 per 100,000 population

Alcohol-attributable mortality females for 2009 – 25 per 100,000 population

All alcohol-related recorded crimes for 2010/11 – 13 per 1000

Alcohol-related violent crimes for 2010/11 – 8 per 1000

Alcohol-related sexual offences for 2010/11 – 0.22 per 1000

 

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