Nearly half a million adults in the North East are drinking enough alcohol to increase the health risks – with the majority under-estimating their intake, according to new figures.
Most, say health campaigners, are still not aware of alcohol guidelines.
And the figures, released by Balance, show that it is adults in the 45 to 54 age group who are most likely to be drinking above the “low risk” guideline of 14 units per week.
The research has been released for the relaunch of the Balance “Can’t See It” campaign highlighting that drinking increases the risks of seven different types of cancer.
With 89% of North East adults drinking (around 1,869,000 people), it suggests:
* Over 1 in 4 North East drinkers (26%) are exceeding the nation guidelines of no more than 14 units per week to stay “low risk” - an estimated 485,940 people.
* The heaviest drinking is seen among people aged 45-54, with 30% of drinkers in that age group exceeding the weekly guidelines.
* More than 8 out of 10 (84%) people drinking above 14 units per week consider themselves to be light or moderate drinkers - an estimated 408,189 adults under- estimating their own drinking risks.
The Chief Medical Officer guideline for men and women is that it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level.
Colin Shevills, director of Balance - the North East Alcohol Office - said: “Despite the region having the highest rate of Dry January sign ups, it’s worrying that so many people are drinking above the guidelines, putting them at greater risk of cancer and other health conditions such a heart disease or stroke.
“Our figures suggest most people drinking above the recommended limits aren’t aware of these guidelines, and are underestimating how much they drink and the potential health risks.
“This is why we are arguing for units to be included on alcohol packaging and for the government to invest in information campaigns to help people make more informed choices.”
He added: “The focus is often on young people’s binge drinking.
“But it might be a surprise that it is people in their 40s and 50s who are more likely to be regularly drinking above 14 units rather than people in their late teens or 20s.
“This is why we are urging people to consider what they are drinking. Taking more days off is a good way to reduce your intake.”