We respond to new figures from the Office for National Statistics about alcohol-related deaths in the UK.
Karen Tyrell, Executive Director of External Affairs at Addaction said:
“More than half of us know someone who’s had an alcohol problem. It’s something that touches almost every family in the UK. It’s really common and it’s definitely something we all need to talk about.
“Historically we haven’t always made it easy for women to ask for help. Treatment services are sometimes quite male dominated, which can be a barrier for women who’ve experienced abuse or trauma. We’ve started to run groups specifically for women and they’re incredibly popular. We also run a free web chat service. Interestingly, the vast majority of the 14,000 people who’ve used it are women. We need to work much harder to provide safe spaces that recognise the challenges women face.
“We know that alcohol is an issue for over 50s and we need to do a lot more to reach this group in a way that works for them. For older drinkers, alcohol often creeps up and gradually plays a more central role in day-to-day life. The people we work with frequently talk about alcohol as a way to deal with loneliness, isolation, and the sense of loss that sometimes comes with retirement and move into a new phase of life.
“It’s important to remember that excessive use of alcohol is usually a way for people to cope. Nobody sets out to become a problem drinker. Our own research found that people with an alcohol problem are 50% more likely to have experienced anxiety or depression, and are twice as likely to have had had an eating disorder. When people make a decision to address an alcohol problem, it’s a route in to look at other issues too. It can be really life changing for individuals and families.
“The good news is that everyone can change their relationship with alcohol. Thousands of us do it every month. There’s no ‘right’ way to do it. Everyone’s journey is different and worthwhile. If you need help or support, reach out.
“The alcohol industry also needs to be held to account. We know that the big drivers in terms of behaviour change include limiting advertising and visibility and minimum unit pricing. We’re encouraging government to include these measures in the forthcoming alcohol strategy.”
Julie Breslin, Head of Addaction’s Drink Wise, Age Well programme said:
“The increase in deaths among women is startling. For women between 55 and 79 it’s most likely due to lifelong excessive drinking. The harm caused by alcohol builds up over time. It’s killing people earlier than would otherwise be the case.
“There’s also been a spike in deaths among middle-aged women. Some of this may be down to the big cultural shift in women’s drinking from the 1980s onwards. Alcohol is also a lot cheaper than it was in the past. The cup of tea has been replaced by the glass of wine. We’re exposed to alcohol marketing every day in our culture, arguably this is particularly true for women.
“There are lots of other factors that lead to women drinking more, especially as we get older. Empty nest syndrome, retirement, relationship breakdown - these can all be traumatic events.
“We’re not reaching nearly enough women with help and support, and people are dying. Less than one in five access treatment. Most are struggling in silence yet this is an issue that affects millions of us. If you’re struggling, reach out for help.”
Mark Byrne | Head of Media | Addaction
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