Binge drinking culture is rife in teens from Manchester and Merseyside

Researchers based at Manchester University have worked with counterparts at Liverpool University to conduct the largest ever health and lifestyle survey of 26 cities and conurbations across Europe. The study has been named as ‘The European Urban Health Indicator System (EURO-URHIS 2) project’.

The areas they looked at were collectively known as the ‘Euro-26’ and included: Amsterdam, Birmingham, Bistrita, Bordeaux, Bratislava, Cardiff, Craiova, Glasgow, Greater Manchester, Iasi, Kaunas, Koln, Kosice, Liepaja, Ljubljana, Maribor, Merseyside, Montpellier, Oberhausen, Oslo, Riga, Siauliai, Skopje, Tetova, Tromso and Utrecht.

The pan-European survey analysed factors such as life expectancy, health and lifestyles across the population in each areas to highlight key policy recommendations.  In regards to the UK regions in the survey, there were perhaps some eyebrow-raising  results.

It was found that Merseyside has the highest population of teenage drinkers, with 55% of 14 to 16 year olds apparently being heavy drinkers. Manchester didn’t fare much better, coming in with 50% still. To put this into perspective, the European average was merely 33% and the lowest rate was found to be 16% in Tetova, Albania. In both Manchester and Merseyside it was also found that the rate of kids who had drunk prior to the age of 13 stood at a shocking 61%. However, the figure was worse though in Bordeaux, France (68%) and Bratislava, Slovakia (62%), although these places did not have high heavy youth drinkers in comparison.

In Greater Manchester and Merseyside it was discovered that depression and anxiety were key problem areas that need to be addressed. Both could be connected to the high rates of binge drinking that evidently seems to be an issue in these regions, and also ever-increasing unemployment rates due to the recession. Cancer, respiratory disease and obesity were both higher in these regions too than the Euro-26 average.

On the flip side, it was not simply all doom and gloom for Mancunians and Liverpudlians. People in Manchester consume a lot more fruit and vegetables than the Euro-26 average and also eat breakfast more frequently; a meal most would argue is the most important meal of the day. Strangely, those in Liverpool had a lower than average perception of their own well-being, yet the survey shows that they tend to smoke a lot less than European counterparts and a flick through many recent Medical Specialists news stories will give you plenty of reasons why not smoking hugely benefits both you and others around you!

More British cities looked at were Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow. Respiratory disease fatalities are apparently much higher in Birmingham than the Euro-26 average, but the incidence of male cancers was a lot less. Youngsters in Birmingham can be looked at in a positive light after it was found that heavy drinking and smoking among this group of people is way below the Euro-26 average.

Project coordinator Dr Arpana Verma, from The University of Manchester, explained a bit more about the purpose of their study and said, “The gap between the rich and poor living in urban areas across the world is widening. The urban poor are now worse off than the rural poor. Health inequalities are a greater issue than ever before and it’s becoming increasingly important for policymakers to take the valuable information that we have to offer and translate into policies that can help improve our health. The European Urban Health Conference highlights these disparities and demonstrated effective tools that policymakers can use to improve health for all. Comparison within cities and between cities is becoming an area of interest to researchers, policymakers and the populations they serve. We will shortly launch our website with our preliminary results, including the differences we have seen. By highlighting these differences, we can learn from each other to make our cities healthier, and empower the citizens of Europe.”

Dr Christopher Birt, from the University of Liverpool, added to Dr Verma’s comments and commented, “Networks and public health advocacy is vital if we are to make our urban areas work for our populations in the future. Policy makers and researchers need to work together, with the best evidence, to reduce inequalities and improve health.”

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