Couples who share a bottle of wine over dinner are putting their lives at risk, according to a report.
The middle classes are  unwittingly becoming ‘risky drinkers’ by regularly having wine with their evening meal, significantly increasing their susceptibility to conditions such as cancer and stroke.
These ‘suburban tipplers’ rarely get drunk, never binge drink and are not heavily dependent on alcohol, but they are still putting their lives in jeopardy.
Risky drinkers? Regularly having wine with your evening meal significantly increases your susceptibility to conditions such as cancer and stroke
And because women’s alcohol tolerance is lower than men’s, they are at greater risk than their partner if they each drink half of a bottle of wine.
In total, some eight million adults are putting their health in serious danger by drinking alcohol at levels above official ‘safe’ guidelines, the report by think tank 2020Health claims.
It cites research showing that those drinking twice the recommended weekly limits increase their risk of liver disease seven-fold, mouth cancer five-fold and stroke three-fold. For women, breast cancer risk doubles.
Any beneficial effects of alcohol, such as reducing the risk of a heart attack among the middle-aged, is counteracted by the risks of other diseases, it warns.
The annual cost to the country of alcohol abuse is estimated at up to £55billion, and six million working days are lost every year to alcohol abuse.
In the introduction to the report, 2020Health chief executive Julia Manning said: ‘A significant proportion of the population, a “silent majority”, are drinking frequently, at levels which increase their risk of health harm.
‘There is a low awareness of this population since much of this drinking happens behind closed doors, at home in the evening, or with a meal.
‘These people may not be aware of the damage they are doing to themselves, or even of the quantities they drink. They may be professionals, students, parents – even GPs themselves.
‘For these people it may be normal to have several drinks in the evening, and yet the data is clear – the risks of such drinking are very high.’ The report defines ‘risky drinkers’ as men consuming more than 21 units of alcohol a week – equivalent to three bottles of wine or seven pints of beer. Women are at risk if they exceed 14 units a week.
‘A typical female risky drinker will be drinking half a bottle of wine, several days a week,’ it warns. The report also recommends that all bottles and cans of alcohol display alcohol units on the front  and calls for a minimum price of 40p per unit.
It even suggests that local authorities, which are in charge of public health, carry out checks on levels of drinking among the population. And it calls for new legal restrictions on alcohol advertising, with schools being forced to run lessons warning of the health risks of regular alcohol consumption.
According to the study, risky drinking is highest among white men aged 45 to 64 and women aged 16 to 24. It is more common in the North and East of England, and the wealthiest are most likely to be risky drinkers.
The report suggests a short consultation with a doctor or nurse, highlighting the health risks and drawing up a plan for changes in drinking patterns and quantity, would reduce consumption among suburban tipplers. Such consultations would cost the NHS up to £15 a time.
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