When you think of a “typical;” alcoholic what comes to mind? A hobo on the street drinking hard liquor of 40-ounce Olde English 800s? A rich guy drinking his stress away on $100 bottles of wine? A recent British think tank would like family physicians of middle class families thinks they need to provide them greater scrutiny.
Family doctors should question patients about how much they drink, in order to expose middle class bad habits, a leading think tank has said.
A report to be published on Monday will say eight million professionals are routinely drinking too much alcohol, and endangering their health, even though they do not binge drink or get drunk.
It calls for new checks, so that GPs quiz all patients about their drinking habits, first at the age of 30, and again as part of general health checks which occur every five years from the age of 40.
If GPs were to carry out the service, their earnings could increase as a result, because they are paid for how they perform against national health targets.
The report, by 2020 Health, a center-right think tank, says many middle class drinkers are not aware of the risks of their evening tipple, with couples who share a bottle of wine over dinner most evenings unwittingly increasing their chances of cancer and strokes.
In its poll of family doctors, 80 per cent thought patients ought to be asked about their drinking habits, but just 20 per cent currently ask the question.
Government advice states men should drink no more than four units a day and women no more than three. A large 250ml glass of wine is classed as three units, as is a pint of continental lager.
Studies have found that drinking six drinks a day increases the risk of liver disease sevenfold and triples the chance of stroke, while for women, it doubles the risk of breast cancer.
Research has found that the middle-classes are more likely to exceed recommended limits than those on lower incomes.
Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show 43 per cent of people in managerial or professional roles drank more than the recommended level on at least one day in the week before they were interviewed, compared to just 31 per cent of workers in routine or manual occupations.
Twice as many middle-class people (22 per cent) had drunk on five days or more in the previous week, as manual workers (11 per cent).
Under a national pay system for family doctors, part of their earnings depend on them checking whether patients with common health problems are smokers, with an extra payment for referring smokers to services to help them give up.
Currently, the only earnings related to alcohol intake concern patients diagnosed with high blood pressure, where GPs get paid more for giving them lifestyle advice on eating and drinking healthily.
Earlier this month, senior doctors called for a change in Government advice, to state that people should have three alcohol-free days a week if they want to avoid the risk of liver disease.
New statistics show the number of deaths from alcohol-related liver disease has risen by 11 per cent in just five years.
The Department of Health figures show that last year 4,609 people – more than 100 a week – died from that liver disease caused by alcohol.
Sobering statistics about a problem that affects every social strata in society.