The Sunday Times: Britons drink more heavily than Russians

Sunday, 2 March, 2008

BRITONS are heavier drinkers than the Russians, according to official data from the World Health Organisation.

Alcohol consumption per head is greater in the UK, and England on its own tops the European table for child and teenage drunkenness.

Opposition politicians seized on the disclosure to demand that the government should reconsider its liberal policy on alcohol, as it prepares to publish a review of 24-hour drinking laws.

David Ruffley , the shadow police minister, said: "Labour have created a 24 hour drinking culture with its misguided alcohol laws. All the police we speak to say this has fuelled an increase in crime and disorder."

The figures from the organisation show that the average Briton drinks 9.29 litres of pure alcohol per year, compared with 8.87 litres in Russia. That places Britain 16th in a world table, ahead of Russia in 18th place. Top was Luxembourg, followed by the Czech Republic, Estonia and Germany.

The data reveal that in 2003, the latest year for which figures are available, England came top of a European table for drunkenness among 11- and 13-year olds, with twice the levels in Russia.

The problem of binge drinking in Britain is also to be linked by an international study to the rise of a generation of twentysomethings who are shrugging off traditional adult responsibilities to embark on a hedonistic "extended adolescence".

The International Center for Alcohol Policies, a Washington-based group, is to make the claim in a publication in May, after research in Britain, Italy, Russia, China, Nigeria, Brazil and South Africa.

Marjana Martinic, its vice-president and co-author of the book, said: "For young people living at home, getting drunk is one of the few things they still have control over. Drinking goes down dramatically when people become responsible for a family."

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of stay-at-home young adults has risen by a fifth among men and almost a third among women in 15 years. About 60% of men and 40% of women aged 20-24 live with their parents.

The study, Swimming with Crocodiles: The Culture of Extreme Drinking, also cites World Health Organisation figures showing that almost twice as many English 15-year-olds as Russians claim to have been drunk more than twice.