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Women’s drinking habits changed less by higher alcohol prices, study finds

A survey has found that men are more likely to reduce their drinking because of higher alcohol prices than women.

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Men are more likely to reduce their drinking than women because of pricing policies, a study suggests (Ian West/PA)

Men are more likely to reduce their drinking than women because of pricing policies, a study suggests (Ian West/PA)

Men are more likely to reduce their drinking than women because of pricing policies, a study suggests (Ian West/PA)

Drinking habits of men are changed more than those of women by minimum unit pricing and other policies targeting the cost of alcohol, a study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow tested a range of pricing policies and found that men’s alcohol consumption and purchasing patterns are more likely to be influenced by cost, compared to those of women.

The study, published on Thursday in the journal Addiction, indicates high-risk drinkers’ consumption falls by more than that of moderate drinkers when alcohol prices are increased by tax rises or minimum unit pricing – a policy introduced in Scotland in 2018.

The ultimate health outcome of a 50p minimum unit price is estimated to lead to a sevenfold larger reduction in consumption and a three times larger reduction in hospital admissions for men compared to women, the study found.

Modelling of 50p and 70p minimum unit pricing, and a 10% increase in tax, also found women would cut down on their drinking less than men and their spending on alcohol would increase significantly more.

Men’s drinking and risk of alcohol-related hospital admissions would decrease substantially more than women’sProfessor Petra Meier, University of Glasgow

Consequently, reductions in alcohol-related hospital admissions are also estimated to be substantially larger among men than women.

For women, only a minimum unit price of 70p is estimated to produce large reductions in admissions but, even for women who drink heavily, the effect on harm is much smaller than for men.

Professor of Public Health at the University of Glasgow, Petra Meier, said: “We know that on average, men drink and spend about twice as much on alcohol than women, and have just over twice the rates of hospital admissions.

“Although men and women face similar risks from drinking at moderate levels, women actually face a substantially greater risk of health harm when drinking heavily.

“Before our study, we had no evidence on whether some of the most discussed policy options: alcohol duty and minimum pricing policies; work differently for men and women.

“Our modelling suggests that men’s drinking and risk of alcohol-related hospital admissions would decrease substantially more than women’s for both duty increases and minimum unit pricing policies.”

Explaining the importance of the study – the first to research different impacts on women and men’s alcohol drinking and health – she added: “If policymakers know that pricing policies are likely to have greater effects on men than women then they can decide if this is desirable.

“For example, in the UK one might argue that policies are well targeted because rates of alcohol-related harm are much higher in men than women.

“On the other hand, the smaller effects on consumption and implications for household budgets when female heavy drinkers increase their spending on alcohol may be seen as a concern.

“Knowing about differential impacts also allows policymakers to consider what other policies should form part of a comprehensive alcohol strategy.”

PA


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