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Key Facts:

  • It is estimated that 24.2% of people aged between 16 and 74 years locally are hazardous or problem drinkers. This suggests that within Bath and North East Somerset more than 39,976 people are drinking at a level that is causing them actual or potential harm.
  • It is estimated that there are about 6,854 people aged 18-64 years in B&NES that are dependent on alcohol.
  • In the B&NES 2016 Voicebox Survey a much greater proportion of male respondents said they were drinking large volumes of alcohol on a regular basis. 
  • In the B&NES 2016 Voicebox Survey the age group with the greatest proportion of respondents that stated that they regularly drunk large volumes of alcohol was the youngest age group (18-34 year olds).

Definitions

Lower risk drinking - consumption of less than 22 units of alcohol per week for males, and less than 15 units of alcohol per week for females. 1

Hazardous/risky drinking is defined as when a person drinks over the recommended weekly limit of alcohol (21/22 units for men and 14/15 units for women).2

Increasing Risk drinking - consumption of between 22 and 50 units of alcohol per week for males, and between 15 and 35 units of alcohol per week for females. 3

Higher Risk drinking – consumption of more than 50 units of alcohol per week for males, and more than 35 units of alcohol per week for females. 4

Binge drinking - It is also possible to drink hazardously by binge drinking, even if you are within your weekly limit. Binge drinking involves drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short space of time – eight units in a day for men and six units in a day for women.

Heavy episodic drinking – Consumption of at least 60 grams of pure alcohol in a single occasion (drinking session). 5

If you are drinking hazardously, you may not yet have any health problems related to alcohol, but you are increasing your risk of experiencing problems in the future.6

Harmful drinking is defined as when a person drinks over the recommended weekly amount of alcohol and experiences health problems that are directly related to alcohol.

In some cases, there may be obvious problems such as: depression ,an alcohol-related accident, such as a head injury,acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).7

Dependent drinking - Alcohol is both physically and psychologically addictive. It is possible to become dependent on it.

Being dependent on alcohol means that a person feels that they are unable to function without alcohol, and the consumption of alcohol becomes an important, or sometimes the most important, factor in their life.

Depending on their level of dependence, a person can experience withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop drinking alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and psychological.

Physical withdrawal symptoms include: hand tremors,sweating,nausea,visual hallucinations, seizures (fits) in the most serious cases

Psychological withdrawal symptoms include: depression,anxiety ,irritability,restlessness, insomnia (difficulty sleeping).

Severely dependent drinkers usually experience severe withdrawal symptoms. They often fall into a pattern of "relief drinking", where they drink to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Severely dependent drinkers are often able to tolerate very high levels of alcohol, and they are able to drink amounts that would incapacitate, or even kill, most other people.8

Drinking behaviour in Bath and North East Somerset 9

There is no locally derived data for drinking behaviour in Bath and North East Somerset. Reliable estimates of the local patterns of drinking can be derived however, by applying national and regional surveys of drinking behaviour to the local population. These estimates are sufficiently robust to enable us to plan our response because they allow us to gauge the overall need for services:

It is estimated that 24.2% of people aged between 16 and 74 years locally are hazardous or problem drinkers.

This suggests that within Bath and North East Somerset more than 39,976 people are drinking at a level that is causing them actual or potential harm. Of these:

  • It is likely that  29,335 people are ‘risky’ drinkers - threatening their health because they are drinking too much or are binge drinking. Most of these people will be unaware that their drinking is hazardous.
  • It is thought that approximately 5,464 people will be drinking at a level that is currently causing them to experience physical or psychological harm, without them being dependent upon alcohol.
  • Also, based on national research and the resulting national prevalence rates that have been developed, various methodologies have generated different estimates for the number of people in Bath and North East Somerset that are thought to be dependent on alcohol. These estimates currently range between 5000-7000 people.  10 11

Proportion and numbers of people drinking to much -risky, harmful and dependent drinkers - infographic

 

Figure 1: Proportion of the adult population in Bath and North East Somerset that are thought to be risky, harmful and dependent drinkers.

Alcohol dependency

The report Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: Results of a household survey, published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre in 2009 (APMS), provides prevalence rates for alcohol dependency in England. 12

The prevalence rates of alcohol dependency in England according to the APMS (those with AUDIT scores ≥ 16 * 13):

  • 8.7% of men, 3.3% of women, and so 5.9% overall
  • For men, the highest levels of dependence were identified in those between the ages of 25 and 34 (16.8%),
  • For women in those between the ages of 16 and 24 (9.8%). 
  • Most recorded dependence was categorised as mild (5.4%), with relatively few adults reporting symptoms of moderate or severe dependence (0.4% and 0.1% respectively). 14

When applying these alcohol dependency prevalence rates to the Office of National Statistics 2012 mid-year population estimates for Bath and North East Somerset based on the 2011 Census, the estimated numbers of people in BANES dependent on alcohol are:

  • 4,950 men aged 18-64 years
  • 1,904 women aged 18-64 years
  • 6,854 of all people aged 18 -64 years 15  

It is important though to bear in mind that the South West is thought to have lower than average levels of alcohol dependency.

The National Treatment Agency estimates that there are 1,823 people in Bath and North East Somerset that are severe dependent drinkers 16 (those with AUDIT scores ≥ 20 * 17)

The Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for Bath and North East Somerset for 2010 to 2012 based its estimates of the numbers of problem drinkers in Bath and North East Somerset on the 2005 Alcohol Needs Assessment Research Project.  This Strategy estimates that around 5,177 people in B&NES have problems in both controlling their drinking and in continuing to function effectively and will be dependent on alcohol, and that:

  • Around 575 people of the 5,177 have significant problems in both controlling their drinking and in continuing to function effectively and are moderately dependent on alcohol. This group are still amenable to interventions that can be provided in a community setting.
  •  Around 143 people of 5,177 are severely dependent upon alcohol and have a wide range of associated problems – medical and mental health problems associated with drinking; perhaps dependence upon other drugs; and social problems. This is the group that requires most intensive intervention and support over a prolonged period. 18

What does the community say?

Voicebox Survey 19 20 21 22 23 24

The large scale Voicebox Resident Survey aims to provide an insight into Bath and North East Somerset and its local communities and to capture resident’s views and experiences of their local area and council services. The questionnaires were posted to 3,150 addresses selected randomly in the local authority area in 2010, 2012 and 2014, and 3,650 addresses in 2016. Selected respondents also have the opportunity to complete the survey online.

The Voicebox Resident Survey carried out in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 asked respondents about their alcohol consumption.

In 2010 the survey overall generated 1,310 responses, a response rate of 42%, in 2012, 850 responses, a response rate of 27%, in 2014, 975 responses, a response rate of 31%, and in 2016, 1,113 responses, a response rate of 31% (sent to 3,650 addresses).

Respondents were asked to consider their alcohol consumption and to select whether they drink more than six drinks for women, eight for men, on one occasion, never, less than monthly, monthly, weekly, daily or almost daily.

It was noted that 1 unit of alcohol is equal to a half-pint of regular beer or 1 small glass of wine (125ml) or 1 single spirit (25ml). However the question focused on number of drinks rather than units of alcohol.

Click here to see the results of the Alcohol questions in the 2016 Voicebox Resident Survey 

In the 2014 Voicebox Survey a much greater proportion of male respondents said they were drinking large volumes of alcohol on a regular basis. 

The age group with the greatest proportion of respondents that stated that they regularly drunk large volumes of alcohol was the youngest age group, 18-34 year olds, for both women and men.

For both women and men the oldest age group, 75 years +, had the smallest proportion of respondents that stated that they regularly drunk large volumes of alcohol. It was also the age group where there was the least difference between women and men in terms of their perceived levels of alcohol consumption

Figure 2: Proportion of female and male 2014 Voicebox Survey respondents that said they were drinking large volumes of alcohol on one occasion, on a monthly, weekly or daily basis - six drinks or more for wommen, eight drinks or more for men*

Figure 3: Levels of alcohol consumption according to Voicebox respondents in 2010, 2012 and 2014 - frequency that women drink more than six drinks on one occasion, and men drink more than eight.*  

*It is important to note that Voicebox results have a margin of error between 1-3%, and so only differences higher than 3% should be considered significant. 

Alcohol consumption – Women*

Women were asked how often if at all they drink more than six alcoholic drinks on one occasion:

  • The proportion of respondents who said they never did was very similar in 2010 (69%), 2012 (66%) and 2014 (69%).
  • A slightly greater proportion of respondents in 2014 (24%) and 2012 (23%) stated that they did so less than monthly compared to 2010 (18%). 
  • The proportion of respondents who said they did so monthly was very similar in 2010 (7%), 2012 (7%) and 2014 (6%).
  • The proportion of respondents who stated they did so on a weekly basis was very similar in 2010 (5%), 2012 (4%) and 2014 (3%).
  • In all three years 1% or less said they did so on a daily or almost daily basis 

Alcohol consumption – Men*

Men were asked how often if at all they drink more than eight alcoholic drinks on one occasion:

  • The proportion of respondents that said they never did was similar in 2010 (56%) and 2014 (52%), but significantly greater in 2012 (63%).
  • The proportion of respondents that stated they did so less than monthly was similar in 2010 (24%) and 2014 (25%), but smaller in 2012 (19%).
  • A slightly greater proportion of respondents in 2014 (16%) stated that they did so monthly compared to in 2012 (11%) and 2010 (9%).
  • The proportion of respondents who stated they did so on a weekly basis was similar in 2010 (6%), 2012 (7%) and 2014 (10%).
  • In all three years 1% or less said they did so on a daily or almost daily basis.

Voicebox 2012 - Drunk and rowdy behaviour  25

When asked in the 2012 Voicebox survey - Thinking about your local area, how much of a problem do you think drunk and rowdy behaviour in public places is? - 

  • 7% of respondents thought it was a very big problem
  • 14% of respondents thought it was a fairly big problem
  • 51% thought it was not a very big problem
  • 28% thought it was not a problem at all