Spanish Erasmus student Alba Asenjo investigates English people’s love of alcohol.
During a recent journalism class, many different subjects were discussed, but there was one that particularly stuck in some classmates’ minds: the alcohol-related problems between English people.
As the teacher of the class approached each student, listening to their radio feature ideas, I heard various questions related to the subject: “Is what you just said about alcohol real?”, “does it affect women much more than men?”, “what exactly is cirrhosis?”
Talking with this same teacher, I told him that it surprised me that English people didn’t see alcohol as a problem. He replied to me that they did and “how could you say such a thing?” But although he tried to convince me, he couldn’t change what I have already seen.
I’ve been living in the UK for five months now. During this time, I’ve seen lots and lots of students drinking like there was no tomorrow. I’ve seen people acting stupid, breaking things, shouting, yelling, and even fighting. I’ve asked 18-year-olds how much they drink, and I’ve been told things like “I usually drink five or six beers at home, plus five or six spirits at the club” lots of times. Also things like “I usually go out twice a week, and spend £50-60 on a night out”.
But this doesn’t happen only with university freshers. I’ve also seen older people, in their forties, fifties and sixties drinking beers, one after another, while they ate dinner, ending up drunk at the dinner table as though it was perfectly normal.
I have always thought that Spanish people drink too much, but my Erasmus year has showed me that we don’t drink anywhere near as much as not only English people, but Finnish and Swedish people too.
Looking at the figures, the ONH says that English guys from 16 to 24 drink an average of 14 units of alcohol a week. Girls drink slightly less: about 11units a week. And this quantity, to my surprise, increases each year until the age of 65, when people start to drink less.
In 2012, there were more than 6,000 deaths related to alcohol, according to the HSCIC. This is 4 per cent less than in 2011, but almost 20 per cent more than just ten years ago, in 2001. The same statistics show the estimated cost of alcohol’s harm to society is 21 billion pounds per year, £210 to each and every taxpayer.
I wonder why this is the case. One of my interviewees, for a radio report about alcohol consumption, reckons that in this country there’s nothing else to do. Is it the lack of activities to focus on that motivates people to drink? Is it related to a lack of personal ambitions or motivations? Is it a cultural thing? Or is it related to the, more productive, English economy – meaning that people have more money to spend on alcohol?
As you’re reading this, I’m sure you will have a lot to tell me about this topic.
So I’m looking forward to hearing your opinions!