The Alcohol Harm Paradox

According to this HSCIC report, rates of alcohol consumption are higher in less deprived areas than in more deprived areas. Here’s a quote from the 2012 piece:

“Men and women in the least deprived areas were more likely to have drunk alcohol than those in more deprived areas. In the least deprived quintile, 77% of men and 62% of women had drunk alcohol in the last week, compared with 50% of men and 38% of women who lived in the most deprived quintile.

Similarly, men and women who lived in least deprived areas were most likely to drink at increased risk levels, and those in the most deprived areas less likely to do so. As with income, this pattern was not apparent among higher risk drinkers.”

Yet while people in less deprived areas might tend to drink more, those in more deprived areas are paradoxically more likely to die from alcoholic related causes, according to the report. This is a common finding in alcohol-related mortality statistics –  for example a National End of Life Care Intelligence Network report from 2012 found “three times as many deaths from alcoholic liver disease in the most deprived areas as in the least deprived.”

According to the HSCIC piece this phenomenon is known as the ‘Alcohol Harm Paradox’: “the most deprived drink the least but suffer the most harm from alcohol.” Work by Alcohol Research UK has so far failed to uncover the cause of this.


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