Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Eight pints in seven hours, say Welsh men

MEN in Wales spend an average of seven hours drinking in one session with some having almost lethal amounts of alcohol in their blood at the end of the night, according to research released today.

The survey, which is the first of its kind in the UK, aims to provide an insight into the night economy in Cardiff's city centre.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the researchers found that men drink more than women - often more than double the amount.

On average, women drank 7.7 units of alcohol per session, which would be equivalent to five glasses of wine whereas men claimed to drink an average of 18.2 units per session, the same as eight pints of lager.

Men drank for seven hours while women spent five hours 40 minutes drinking - and as a result men were more likely to slur, stagger or have glazed eyes.

The Cardiff Community Safety Partnership - an organisation made up of Cardiff licensees, South Wales Police, Cardiff Substance Misuse Action Team and Cardiff University - carried out the "Lion's Breath" research.

It is hoped the project will provide an accurate picture of drinking habits as well as the behaviour of weekend revellers in Cardiff city centre.

It is also hoped it will help provide a blueprint of nighttime activity to help other UK towns and cities deal with keeping disorder to a minimum.

Professor Jonathan Shepherd, chair of the Cardiff Community Safety Partnership's violent crime task group and Lion's Breath project, said, "The Lion's Breath project has helped provide an invaluable insight into the make up and impact of a major city centre's night-time economy.

"This piece of research could be of benefit to people all over the country and will hopefully attract the attention of governmental departments."

Those most drunk were 31-year-old males with the maximum reading of alcohol in blood recorded as 0.331, which is close to lethal.

The average reading for men was 0.124 while women had lower readings with an average of 0.093 and a maximum of 0.267.

Surveyors worked in the city centre one Friday and Saturday night a month between the hours of 11pm and 3am over a one-year period.

The streets in the three survey sites - St Mary Street, Greyfriars Road and Wood Street - were also monitored for disturbances.

Dr Simon Moore, the principal investigator from the Violence and Society Research Group at Cardiff University said, "The vast majority of people in Cardiff drink sensibly.

"Excessive drunkenness, disorder and aggression were exhibited by a minority.

"We are collaborating to identify, intervene and lessen the impact of the minority's problem behaviour.

"We should now think about developing targeted interventions that focus on those few who drink to excess and undermine other people's enjoyment."

Mark Smith, Cardiff Community Safety Partnership communications officer, said that on the whole the picture was not as bad as some people thought.

"Alcohol-related assaults have actually fallen in the city.

"On an average weekend, there are 70,000 people visiting Cardiff's bars and restaurants. I'd be surprised if you'd get more than 20 to 25 arrests over the course of the weekend, that's the full 48 hours going from Friday night until Sunday.

"If you look at those arrest figures, that's very few indeed.

"That's not to say that unprovoked attacks don't happen because they do - thankfully they are extremely rare.

"These low rates of alcohol-related assault have led numerous major towns and cities to visit Cardiff and meet with us to discuss the methods we have introduced, implemented and maintained."

Nicholas Perham, the Lion's Breath project co-ordinator, said, "Research results suggest that the night-time economy is quite safe with very few instances of aggressive or antisocial behaviour witnessed in the areas that were surveyed.

"We were also examining the relationship between happiness and alcohol. The results demonstrate that happiness initially increases with alcohol consumption but this reaches a maximum after which happiness decreases with further consumption."

Researchers found people were happy to drop their litter with some evidence of disorder, with urinating or vomiting observed less than one instance of either every hour.

Overall, violence was observed rarely, whereas aggressive shouting was heard around every two hours.

The average age of the men surveyed was 24.97 years and for women it was 24.66 years.

Out of 912 people interviewed, 15 were minors and 12 of those were under the influence of alcohol.

The majority of the people were employed, with 27% being students and 5% unemployed.

Three-quarters of all respondents were non-smokers while women smoked more than men.

Two-thirds of respondents were over the UK driving limit and could therefore be regarded as "binge drinkers", exceeding their daily recommended alcohol intake.

Both survey data and head count revealed more men (62%) than women (38%) socialised in the city centre.