New research shows that the number of British who drink alcohol because they believe that it can have health benefits has risen from 19 per cent in January 2002, to one in four (26 per cent) consumers questioned in 2004.
But men are considerably more likely to be of the opinion that alcohol is good for their health (30 per cent), compared to 23 per cent of women. Less than 10 per cent of consumers believe that alcohol is bad for you.
Research has shown that a moderate daily intake of red wine can be beneficial to the health of men, especiallyamong the older age groups, who are at greater risk from coronary heartdisease. Alcohol has also been associated with lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome, which leads to type 2 diabetes, and may even help prevent colds.
But the specifics of the medical and physiological effects ofalcohol, particularly with reference to health benefits, are notabsolutely conclusive. And companies trying to use health claims on alcoholic drinks have generally been told off by advertising authorities.
Nevertheless the survey shows that more than one in five (21 per cent) 25-44 year olds believe that drinking alcohol can be good for their health. This group is among those who are the most likely to drink alcohol but are by no means the most likely to be red wine drinkers or to be at riskfrom heart disease.
"There could well be a number of people, who believe that there are infact health benefits from drinking alcohol of all kinds. It is not justthose who are at real risk from heart disease or those who are likely todrink red who feel that alcohol can have health benefits," explainedAmanda Lintott, consumer analyst at Mintel.
"It may well be that an element of drinkers are likely to be responsiveto this kind of message as it rationalises their drinking and may evenauthorise them to drink more frequently than they currently do," she added.
The survey of around 1,000 consumers also found that some 21 per cent of men admitted that alcohol is great for relieving stress.
Britain is very much a nation of drinkers. Just 13 per cent of adults neverdrink, while nearly 60 per cent of consumers drink at least once a week, anincrease of around 5 percentage points since 2001. Only 7 per cent ofconsumers aged 18 and over state that they are trying to cut down on the amount they drink, while the same number of adults allow their childrena sensible amount of alcohol at home. This suggests that the majorityof drinkers feel content that the level of their consumption poses nothreat to their health or economic well-being, said Mintel.
"The £34.87 billion alcoholic beverages market continues to boom. Anageing population and fewer numbers of younger people have aided thegrowth of the in-home drinking market," added Lintott.