Alcohol misuse (health and wellbeing needs in South Tyneside)


  • Alcohol is a prominent commodity in the UK marketplace. It is widely used in numerous social situations. For many, alcohol is associated with positive aspects of life; however there are currently over 10 million people drinking at levels which increase their risk of health harm. Among those aged 15 to 49 in England, alcohol is now the leading risk factor for ill-health, early mortality and disability and the fifth leading risk factor for ill-health across all age groups.
  • Many people consume alcohol responsibly and view it as part of an active social life; however when drinking more than the recommended limits alcohol misuse can negatively impact on people's health and wellbeing, as well as that of their families and the wider community.
  • The majority of adults who consume alcohol in South Tyneside are not dependent on alcohol. Only a very small minority of our population match the public image of the term "alcoholic" and are dependent on alcohol. Most adults who drink alcohol live fully functioning lives; have jobs, families and positions of respect in the community. However, a large proportion of our population who may consider themselves 'social drinkers' are drinking at levels that place them at greater risk of alcohol related harm. They are at risk of developing long-term health conditions because of the amount they regularly drink and this doesn't have to be large amounts of alcohol. For instance, if a woman drinks two bottles of wine a week she is consuming around 20 units which puts her at risk.
  • The public health burden of alcohol is wide ranging, relating to health, social or economic harms. These can be tangible, direct costs (including costs to the health, criminal justice and welfare systems), or indirect costs (including the costs of lost productivity due to absenteeism, unemployment, decreased output or lost working years due to premature pension or death).
  • Harms can also be intangible, and difficult to cost, including those assigned to pain and suffering, poor quality of life or the emotional distress caused by living with a heavy drinker. Many of these harms impact upon other people, including relationship partners, children, relatives, friends, co-workers and strangers.
  • The Department of Health's national alcohol strategy published in 2012 included proposals to cut 'binge drinking'; alcohol-fuelled violence, and the number of people drinking to damaging levels by:
    • Consulting on a minimum unit price for alcohol - while the price of alcohol has increased by 36% since 2005, it remains 60% more affordable than it was in 1980
    • Introducing stronger powers for local areas to control the density of licensed premises including making the impact on health a consideration for this. Since 2013 directors of public health (DPH) have been included as responsible authorities under the Licensing Act 2003.
  • The UK Supreme Court has ruled that Minimum Unit Pricing is legal in Scotland (November 2017).  The impact of this across the rest of the UK is unclear; however this will be closely monitored.