Those of us who work or have done in journalism have a certain problem with the current safe drinking limits. What is said to be the maximum safe weekly consumption is what we certainly used to call lunch. That says more about us than anything else of course.
And yet it is also true that the limits of 14 units a week are ludicrous. The earlier, higher, limits were quite literally plucked from the air. That’s before the near random reduction in them. The actual truth is that being teetotal carries risks, as does any level of alcohol consumption. What we want to know though is what is the accumulation of the various risks, that being imbibing up at the 30 to 40 units a week level being as risky, overall, as drinking none.
However, we think there might be a different explanation for this:
Overall, 21% of people aged 16 and over in England drink more than the 14 units a week recommended by the UK’s four chief medical officers, a fall on the previous year.
Far more men (28%) than women (14%) drink more than this threshold, according to NHS Digital, in a detailed portrait of alcohol and the harm it causes.
Men are likely to drink more than women - not a great surprise to any observer of our society over the generations.
NHS Digital’s report, which used 2017 data from England, showed that adults from wealthier backgrounds (27%) were almost twice as likely as those from poorer homes (15%) to drink more than the 14-unit weekly ceiling.
The rich tend to drink more than the poor.
Those aged 55 to 64 are the likeliest to drink more than 14 units a week, with 36% of men and 20% of women doing that.
Those more mature in years are more likely to drink more than those less wise. A reasonable response to modern life we might think.
Yet we should also consider the manner in which race changes with age cohorts. The BAME, for example, portion of the population is rather higher among the young than it is among the old. That’s what the recency of mass immigration means.
It’s possible to piece this together. We tax drink highly in the UK. The result of which is that those who are able to enjoy it are the richer, older, whiter, males among us. The only group left that can afford to enjoy it in quantity perhaps.
Any other policy we had which privileged rich old white guys would be rightly decried and changed. Perhaps we should change our taxation of alcohol therefore?