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ONE IN 4 WOMEN HAS BINGE DRINKING PROBLEM; Two reports highlight growing abuse that is tearing Scottish families apart.

Byline: HEATHER GREENAWAY EXCLUSIVE

ONE in four Scots women were revealed as binge drinkers yesterday.

An alarming survey of the nation's health exposed massive problems linked to soaring amounts of booze consumption.

Dr Mac Armstrong's annual report Health in Scotland 2002 also reveals a link between excessive alcohol consumption and breast cancer.

Research suggests alcohol could be responsible for as many as 500 cases of breast cancer per year, making it the most common cancer linked to alcohol.

In his report, Dr Armstrong says: "Although breast cancer is currently very rare in young women, the data now available suggests that an 18- year- old who makes a habit of binge drinking is building up a significant breast cancer risk in 20 to 30 years time.

"It is crucial we step up our efforts against habitual binge drinking."

Dr Armstrong's research also revealed that young women are more likely to exceed the weekly limits.

Middle-class women have the highest levels of alcohol consumption over a weekly period.

But those on lower incomes are most likely to consume six or more units - the equivalent of six glasses of wine - in their heaviest drinking day of the week.

Alcohol-related problems currently cost Scotland pounds 1billion a year and the health service in Scotland around pounds 96million.

Dr Armstrong's report adds: "The message to young women is you don't have to stop drinking alcohol just cut back."

The Scottish Executive could not confirm the definition of binge drinking used in the new survey but some scientists say a binge involves two- days of prolonged drunkeness while others claim more than five drinks in a session is enough.

A spokesman for the Institute of Alcohol Studies said: "Binge drinking is not a new phenomenon. It has been a part of Northern culture for a very long time.

"Women are more susceptible to binge drinking nowadays as they have a higher disposable income.

"The drinks industry markets heavily towards women.

"It doesn't surprise me that a large number of women who binge drink are from the middle classes.

"Women now are as well-paid as men and there is just as much pressure put on them to go out and socialise after work."

In 1995, 13 per cent of adult Scots women exceeded the recommended weekly alcohol consumption limits and by 1998 that figure had risen to 15 per cent.

These findings were confirmed earlier this year when it was revealed that British girls were the booziest in Europe.

A women's forum organised earlier this year to discuss the problems of women and alcohol revealed changing attitudes to drink.

The group agreed women today have the same jobs and often earn as much as men encouraging the belief women should match their male companions drink for drink.

They also agreed women no longer feel embarrassed about consuming large amounts of alcohol. Many of the women were shocked when told they should drink no more than 14 alcoholic units a week.

A young Edinburgh woman said: "I can do the maths and I know I am drinking a lot more than my limit.

"Setting the limit at 14 units is like wartime rationing. It's difficult to live off four small glasses of wine and two pints of beer a week."

Figures also show there have been sharp upward trends in alcohol-related illness and death - particularly alcoholic disease in women.

Next week's independent report comes just months after the Office of National Statistics revealed the number of alcohol-related deaths has doubled in the last 10 years.

Statistics show that in 2001, 1220 people died - a jump from 680 in 1990. Another survey carried out earlier this year by Paul Bradshaw, an alcohol researcher at Edinburgh University revealed an alarming number of underage Scots drinkers.

The figures revealed almost 84 per cent of 15-year-old boys and girls have drunk alcohol and almost half have bought it illegally. Children aged 11 to 15 now drink the equivalent of 10.4 alcohol units a week - twice the amount drunk 10 years ago.
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 1, 2003
Words:670
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