From time to time our staff are requested by the media to comment on issues concerning our research and this is an important way of disseminating research to the general public. Recently Dr Tina Alwyn, whose has done extensive research regarding substance abuse, was asked by BBC Radio Wales to comment on research that suggested that white collar workers are four times more likely to exceed drinking guidelines. Andrew Miles from Alcohol Concern Cymru and someone representing alcohol sales were also invited to debate the issue over the lunch time slot.
These debates happen regularly – and frequently appear in our national papers. What is interesting about this report is it flies in the face of the stereotypical view held by the general public as to which population groups have more issues as a result of excessive alcohol consumption. As is often the case, the majority of people tend to think alcohol problems can only occur in certain populations – for example, Students and young people are often targeted as are the homeless, unemployed etc. However, in reality access to, and availability of alcohol are key in increased consumption levels. White collar workers are more likely to drink as they have more disposable income to spend on alcohol. Currently, consumers can walk into any supermarket or off-license and be able to choose between the bargain offers available. As Tina discussed on the programme, the people who buy these end up drinking more than they intended. The representative of the sales industry suggested that it is the individuals themselves who should take responsibility for the purchase and that supermarkets are under competition pressure and that they cannot be held responsible for excessive alcohol consumption in the UK. Interestingly, the 2010 amendment to the 2003 licensing law, suggests that there should not be irresponsible promotions which could encourage drunkenness. Another option is to follow the Scottish lead and increase the unit price of alcohol – thereby cutting down on cheap alcohol sales and offers.
With binge drinking an increasingly important agenda item regarding policies, this look like a debate that will continue for many years to come. It is hoped that psychologists, such as Tina, will be able to have a voice in the ongoing debates and hopefully shape policy and long-term behavior change.
You can find out more about the alcohol pricing debate at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20515918