Best articles: Britain

George Best

is only

one of many

Ros Coward

The Guardian

The press has treated liver transplant beneficiary George Best unfairly for drowning his sorrows and brawling, says Ros Coward. Only one of many unfortunates, he is “a very poignant example of what heavy drinking can do”. Now a Department of Health and Food Standards Agency survey suggests binge drinking is far commoner than assumed. At least half of 19- to 24-year-old women exceed the daily guideline - three units or small glasses of wine - once a week or more, while one third drink more than double the recommendation on “binge days”. One in seven young men quaff upwards of 51 units a week, and UK champagne consumption, second only to France’s, has risen by a quarter. Wary of Puritanism, Coward admits: “Alcohol also happens to be my drug of choice…But, even so, I find very odd the idea of going out specifically to get smashed.” Repercussions include more babies born with foetal alcohol syndrome and 33,000 drink-related deaths a year. “This is a culture with too much disposable income and not enough challenges or forms of pleasurable connection between young people without alcohol….It’s odd, too, how we deny alcohol’s health risks, as if it’s the one ‘safe’ activity in an over risk-conscious society.”

Anthony Howard