Daily Express says half of women in the UK have a drinking problem. They don’t

Overblown prose and lazy use of data mislead readers about British drinkers


The Daily Express has declared that ‘Over half of UK women have a battle with the booze‘.

“More than half of British women and almost two-thirds of men have a drink problem, a survey says.

In a poll of nearly 7,000 adults, 55 per cent of females and 63 per cent of men were either alcoholics or at risk of becoming one.

However, a second look reveals the story offers the same overblown prose and lazy use of data as a typical Express story about the weather.

For a start, according to the story itself, more than 10 per cent more men were ‘at risk’ of alcoholism. So why the headline about women? Perhaps it was something to to with the story being published next to one about Kate Moss’s recent escapades.

But is it true that so many people in Britain have a drinking problem? Half of all women and two thirds of all men?

Well, no. In fact the survey just refers to the level of alcohol the World Health Organisation deems ‘harmful’. Reporting this as a ‘drinking problem’ or ‘battle with the booze’ is false and serves to jazz up the supposed findings.

The Express story closes by saying there were 8,416 alcohol-related deaths in the UK in 2013, the most recent figures. But what does this mean in context?

Here are some facts the Express doesn’t tell you. According to the Office for National Statistics, alcohol-related deaths in the UK in 2013 (making allowances for changes in age) were actually at their lowest level since 2000.

66 per cent of those deaths in 2013 were men. The highest alcohol-related deaths were of people aged 60 to 64 years – and more than twice as many of those per 100,000 were male.

More than a fifth of adults in the UK don’t drink alcohol at all. And between 2005 and 2013, the proportion of adults who ‘binge drink’ fell thanks to a massive decline among young people.

All of this would make Kate Moss something of outlier, rather than a symptom, (let alone a cause), of drinking trends in Britain.

And anyway, isn’t this the newspaper which gave a million pound endorsement to the beer-swilling UKIP leader Nigel Farage?

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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