Healthy, wealthy and sober

Alcohol consumption in the UK is declining, according to Mintel. A recent research on healthy lifestyle shows that 28 per cent of adults drink less than one unit of alcohol per week, compared with 19 per cent in 1996.

People aged 18 to 24 years old are drinking more than any other age group, with 46 per cent of them consuming more than seven units of alcohol a week. However, almost as many women as men in this group are light-to-moderate drinkers.

The increasing number of women drinkers is linked to the growing number of women who work and the rise in popularity of the “ladette culture” represented by media celebrities such as Denise Van Outen and Sara Cox.

TGI findings also identify 45to 54-year-old women as having increased the frequency of their drinking – this group are more likely than women of any other age to drink more than once a week. However, this increase can be connected to the growing evidence that drinking in moderation can be beneficial for health. For instance, women aged between 45-to 54 years old, are more likely to drink a glass of wine at home regularly.

Mintel’s research reveals that there is a significant gender difference in the weekly consumption of alcohol. Some 46 per cent of men drink more than seven units of alcohol a week, while only 18 per cent of women drink this amount. Also, adults in the AB groups have a tendency to drink more than any other group. However, more moderate to heavy drinkers – people consuming 15 units or more a week – are found in C1 and D groups. In terms of regional drinking habits, Scotland, Yorkshire and the North-east have a higher proportion of heavy drinkers.

The number of smokers in the UK over the past 25 years has declined from 42 per cent in 1975 to 27 per cent in 1995. The number of lung-cancer deaths halved between 1965 and 1995 because of the reduction in the number of smokers. The Mintel research confirms that there were the same numbers of male smokers in 2000 as in 1995, but over this period the number of female smokers has increased by one per cent.

The findings confirm that there is a correlation between smoking and socio-economic groups, as 20 per cent of ABs smoke compared with 46 per cent of Ds. Although the effects of parental smoking on children is well documented, Mintel’s research reveals that a high proportion of men and women smoke when they are raising children.

In most cases, the lifestyles of smokers are less healthy than non-smokers. Smokers are more likely to drink more than eight units of alcohol a week than non-smokers. Furthermore, smokers are less likely to take up regular exercise, as only 23 per cent of smokers exercise or play sport once a week. Also, smokers are less likely to eat fresh fruit and low-fat foods. Just nine per cent of smokers eat fresh fruit or vegetables, compared with 21 per cent of non-smokers.

The complementary medicines market has risen by 70 per cent since 1995, with the UK sales of vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements amounting to &£361m in 2000. Concerns about the deficiencies in modern diets, especially among children, pregnant women and the elderly, have contributed to the popularity of dietary supplements. There is a higher usage of alternative healthcare among females, the middle-aged and those in the AB socio-economic groups. About six in ten empty nester women have used some form of alternative healthcare. Mintel research shows that back pain is the most prevalent condition for which alternative medicine is used. Three in ten people have taken or would take herbal and/or homeopathic medicines for this condition.

Modern lifestyles have been cited as the main cause of stress-related illness, which in turn has led to higher usage of alternative medicine. Overall, the level of stress has slightly decreased since 1996. Last year, one in five people said that their lifestyles were quite stressful. The research shows there is a clear pattern between stress and different life-stages. Stress levels are highest in 34to 44-year-olds in the family life-stages. Women are more likely than men to feel their lives are stressful.

A number of lifestyle habits such as smoking, alcohol consumption and diet can be related to stress levels – 42 per cent of those who are stressed smoke more than ten cigarettes a day. On the other hand, those whose lifestyles are stressful are also more likely to play sport or exercise. For these respondents regular exercise can be used to help combat stress.

People who feel their lives are stressful are more likely to seek alternative medicine when they are ill – one in five respondents who are stressed are more likely to take herbal or homeopathic medicines. People with stressful lives eat more sugary and fatty foods than those who are stress-free and 15 per cent of this group describe themselves to be quite overweight. To a greater extent the high levels of obesity in adults can be linked to the fact that lives are becoming more stressful.

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