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David Baxter PhD

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UK young women 'out-drinking men'
Tuesday, 21 March 2006

Young women are out-drinking men of the same age in the UK but in no other European country, experts are warning.

Analysis of a Europe-wide study also shows that alcohol consumption in southern Mediterranean countries is falling, but rising in northern Europe.

Liver disease is now likely to appear at a much earlier age, Professor Moira Plant of Bristol University said.

She will tell a nursing conference on Thursday that alcohol is cheaper and more available than ever before. Professor of Alcohol Studies Professor Plant warned that if young women in Britain continued to drink in this way, that they could present problems for the health service in the future.

Professor Moira Plant
She analysed research collected in a major international study focusing on 12 European countries in 2004 and 2005.

She said: "Britain seems to be the only country in which women are overtaking young men in the 18 to 24 age group." She said that elsewhere, and in the past in Britain, women tended to drink in a much safer way than men.

Professor Plant said that some of the reasons women used not to drink so extensively was because they feared for their physical safety when they did. This did not seem to be as much of an issue for them now, she added.

But she warned there was a delayed physical risk for women associated with the health implications of binge drinking.

"There are now young women in their late teens and early 20s developing liver damage that in the past was not being seen until the age of 60 or 70," she added. Alcohol abuse is also linked with stomach ulcers, damage to the oesophagus and damage to the brain.

Professor Plant is due to present her findings at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) research conference on Thursday. RCN general secretary Beverly Malone said nurses could help by raising awareness among young people.

'Key role'
She said: "It's about using every health education opportunity to prevent binge drinking habits starting in the first place.

"That's where the nursing profession - from school nurses to community nurses and family planning nurses - plays a key role and can educate younger people about how binge drinking can seriously harm their health."

A spokeswoman for campaign group Alcohol Concern said: "Recent trends in women's drinking are certainly cause for concern, and we're pleased that this study shifts the issue away from simply being about alcohol-related disorder and the 'ladette' culture, and actually addresses the real health risks of drinking too much. "Health professionals have a crucial role to play in educating problem-drinkers about the health problems they could be storing up for the future."
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