Communication News: Binge drinkers twice as likely to suffer astroke

The Stroke Association is to launch a media campaign today to stress the message that binge drinkers are twice as likely to have a stroke as other people.

The campaign is timed to coincide with the likely increase in binge drinking at parties throughout the festive season. Some 57 per cent of people cited Christmas as the event most likely to get them drinking alcohol, according to a survey commissioned by the charity last month.

The survey, of 1,900 people, exposes the gulf between public perceptions and the reality of what constitutes binge drinking. Only 29 per cent admitted to binge drinking. But, when asked how many alcoholic drinks they consumed, 52 per cent admitted to drinking four or more on a night out - putting them over the medically recommended daily alcohol intake limits of 3-4 units for men and 2-3 units for women.

Binge drinking can trigger a stroke by increasing blood pressure, which can then lead to a blood clot or a burst artery. But when people were asked what they thought the long-term effects of binge drinking were, only 40 per cent identified strokes. This compares with 95 per cent citing liver damage and 87 per cent naming dehydration. The charity will send the research, which includes statistical breakdowns of binge drinking among men, women and different areas of the UK, to national and regional press.

A British Medical Journal report in 1999 on alcohol consumption and mortality traced the drinking habits of 6,000 Scottish men for 20 years. It found that men who drank five or more units of alcohol per day were twice as likely to have a stroke.

The campaign is the first phase of a long-term strategy that will continue with a poster and leaflet campaign targeting female binge drinkers next spring.

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