Middle class wine drinkers have been vilified in the UK press as the chief culprits behind alcohol abuse in the country.
Articles in today’s newspapers including the Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and the Evening Standard singled out the fact that those living in middle-class areas are more likely to consume ‘hazardous’ levels of alcohol.
According to the statistics, Runnymede (Surrey), Harrogate (Yorkshire) and mid-Sussex are among the regions with the highest percentage of people consuming 22 to 50 units per week for men or 15-35 units per week for women – levels deemed ‘hazardous’ by research commissioned by the department of health.
‘The heaviest drinkers in the country are in the wealthy enclaves of middle-class Surrey,’ said the Evening Standard this evening.
Health minister Dawn Primarolo said that ‘everyday drinkers’ were to blame.
‘[They] have drunk too much for too long,’ she said. ‘This has to change.’
However, the regions with the highest levels of ‘harmful’ drinking include Manchester, Liverpool and Salford. According to the study, ‘harmful’ drinking is one step up from ‘hazardous’ and is defined as those consuming over 50 units per week (men) or over 35 units per week (women). According to the BBC, one large (250ml) glass of 12% wine contains three units of alcohol.
Decanter magazine editor Guy Woodward said that the story had been ‘blown out of all proportion’ and that the articles were ‘irresponsible’ and ‘misleading’.
‘The way the press – and the government – is talking you’d be forgiven for thinking Surrey was turning into Sodom and Gomorrah,’ he said. ‘The reason southern, middle-class wine drinkers are more common in the “hazardous drinking” category is that the “harmful drinking” category, which is the more dangerous one, is taken up with binge drinkers from the working class, north-west of the country.’
‘Of course the suburban middle classes are going to be more common in the next category down,’ he added, saying the press had ‘pounced’ on the middle classes for the sake of a better story.
Jeremy Beadles of industry body the Wine and Spirit Trade Association questioned the study’s parameters.
‘I’m not sure it’s helpful to anyone to describe someone who drinks one glass more than the government’s sensible drinking guidelines as a hazardous drinker,’ he said.
Written by Oliver Styles