By Vexen Crabtree 2015
There is nothing wrong with drinking modest and sensible amounts of alcohol but fitness, physical health, mental health and long-term health all suffer as a result of medium- or heavy- drinking1 and the health risks to the baby when pregnant mothers drink2 are well-known. Aside from the effects on the individual, alcohol misuse impacts on entire economies3 via increased health service costs, policing costs and lost days' work. Worldwide, alcohol misuse is "among the top five risk factors for disease, disability and death" and is a "cause of more than 200 disease and injury conditions in individuals, most notably alcohol dependence, liver cirrhosis, cancers and injuries"4. "In 2012... 5.9% of all global deaths, were attributable to alcohol consumption"5. Deaths from chronic alcohol misuse have been rising for decades, and so has violence, abuse, vandalism and crime all associated with alcohol over-use. The aggression and crime associated with alcohol in some Western countries infringes on the human rights of those who want nothing to do with such behaviour. Many of the social effects of alcohol are psychological and cultural; i.e., people don't have to behave criminally or destructively whilst drunk - it is a culturally learned behaviour. Experiments have shown that behaviour can be controlled: Those who do not wish to behave badly whilst drunk, will not do so.
In 1998 the UK government reported that 40 000 deaths per year are alcohol-related6. Per-capita consumption of alcohol in the UK has doubled since the late 1950s, whilst in other developed countries such as France and Italy, it has more than halved7. The price of alcohol, in real terms, is half what it was in the 1970s7. Between 1995 and 2001, binge drinking increased by 35% in the UK7. Despite government efforts to reduce excessive drinking, according to the NHS "hundreds more" children are admitted to hospital after drinking [in 2005] than five years ago, diagnosed with alcohol poisoning and "behavioural disorders because of excessive drinking"8: In 2009 this was confirmed by "an OECD report identifying its teenagers as the world's drunkest, among other dubious accolades"9. Death rates from cirrhosis, primarily caused by excessive drinking, "the increase is reflected in rising death rates from chronic liver disease, the primary cause of which is too much drink. In the 30 years between 1970 and 2000, death by cirrhosis for people aged 25 to 44 rose an astonishing 900%, from about 80 cases a year to more than 700".7.
Alcohol-related crime commands the single biggest use of police manpower in the UK and alcoholism and binge drinking is by far the biggest social problem that British society faces. UK holidaymakers and football fans abroad are bemoaned as the most drunken and most unruly of all foreign travellers. It disgraces the UK; other European countries such as Italy and France have no such problems. Binge drinking is not only a problem acknowledged by health and government officials, but it is also something they think all citizens ought to be warned about... its definition appears in the UK Citizenship Test lexicon's list of words that immigrants ought to learn10.
As a result of the dominance of trash culture, the UK has the most pervasive pub culture of all modern countries. Socializing does not occur in restaurants or at milliard social occasions, as it does now in most developed countries, but in pubs. Pub culture is based around drinking relatively strong beer in a (once) smoky, noisy environment that is devoid of any intelligent conversation. It serves as the place where social groups all default to meet in, where businessmen network, where all go to relax. In trash culture the home is not a primary place to entertain friends: the pub is. Home cooking in the UK has quartered, fast food, eating-out and take-away consumption have experienced long-term booms. Once a proud nation of kitchen-socializers, our fitness and health is plummeting to the same fast-food standards of the USA. Pubs are centers of youth violence, shrines to football and sport and most pubs show frequent football games on a variety of large and small screens. Alcohol over-use has become institutionalized, and not just in labour industries. Professional meetings are frequently held in pubs and involve after-discussion binge-drinking. Feminist groups have complained that this pub & alcohol 'circle' around work meeting discriminates against women (who drink less).
This is not a new phenomena. For example, an Anglo-Saxon times (5th-11th century) there were many problems with social behaviour, and alehouses were singled out as the cause so that in order to encourage people to drink and behave in moderation, "any quarrels that arose there were more severely punished than elsewhere"11.
Alcohol, irresponsible behaviour, crime and all the other factors of trash culture are all inter-related. Sociologists sometimes classify households according to the wages of the principal income earner of the house; "lower social groups tend to smoke more, drink more, take less leisure, fewer holidays and participate less in voluntary work"8. There is an association between poverty and drinking, but also between drinking and smoking, and between drinking and all the other aspects of trash culture.
The Economist. Published by The Economist Group, Ltd. A weekly newspaper in magazine format, famed for its accuracy, wide scope and intelligent content. See vexen.co.uk/references.html#Economist for some commentary on this source..
(1688) The History of England, Volume I. E-book. Amazon Kindle digital edition prepared by David J. Cole.
Peters, Michael Dr
(2011) Family Doctor Home Advisor. Hardback book. 4th edition. Published by Dorling Kindersley Limited, London, UK. Published for the British Medical Association.
Secretary of State for Health
(1998) Our Healthier Nation: A Contract for Health. Government consultation paper presented to Parliament (CM3852).
World Health Organisation. (WHO)
(2014) Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health. A copy can be found on the WHO website. Accessed 2015 Jan 04. It "presents a comprehensive perspective on the global, regional and country consumption of alcohol, patterns of drinking, health consequences and policy responses in Member States" and was published in Geneva on 2014 May 12.
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