MIDDLE class women drink far more regularly than females in more deprived areas, a survey has revealed.

According to the research, female drinkers in wealthier areas have higher weekly consumption levels (9.7 units) than women in the poorer areas (7.5 units).

But the survey also shows that among those who drink above the recommended maximum of 14 units per week, people in the most deprived areas tend to drink more than those in more affluent parts.

Herald View: Alcohol habits more nuanced than we think

A similar survey last year showed that almost a third of middle-class men and one in five professional women drank more than the recommended number of units per week.

These middle classes in the top 20 per cent of household incomes - the equivalent of a couple earning around £50,000 between them.

But they are more likely to put their health at risk by over-indulging during the week than those on the lowest incomes.

Drinking more than three units a day, the equivalent of a large glass of red wine, can increase women’s risk of breast cancer by 20 per cent.

Men who drink more than four units a day are almost twice as likely to develop high blood pressure.

Higher-income drinkers are often overlooked when it comes to Scotland’s alcohol crisis due to heavy drinking in deprived areas.

But the latest Scottish Household survey shows professional women tend to drink far more on average over the week.

Overall, 16 per cent of adults do not drink alcohol which is up from 11 per cent in 2003.

One in four adults (26 per cent) in the most deprived areas do not drink alcohol, compared to 11 per cent of those in the least deprived areas.

Herald View: Alcohol habits more nuanced than we think

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said: “A quarter of Scots are putting themselves at risk of liver disease, cancer, stroke and mental health problems by drinking above the low-risk guidelines of 14 units per week.

“Men are twice as likely as women to drink above the guidelines, and there are twice as many male alcohol-related deaths.

“However, the rise in women’s drinking over time is concerning and it’s women in professional jobs living in more affluent areas who tend to drink more.

“This trend has been driven by the alcohol industry creating products and advertising campaigns directly targeting women. Alcohol is so cheap and easily available it has become an everyday grocery item.”

The survey also shows that people who live in the most deprived areas of Scotland have poorer health, are less likely to exercise and are more likely to smoke than those living in the least deprived areas.

It reveals that 35 per cent of people living in the most deprived areas smoke cigarettes which is three times more than those living in the least deprived areas (11 per cent).

But just 21 per cent of adults smoke which is down from 28 per cent in 2003.

The findings demonstrate that people in the most deprived areas are twice as likely to have two or more risk factors than those living in the least deprived areas.

Joanne McLean, research director of the Scottish Health Survey at ScotCen Social Research said: “The persisting health inequalities in the Scottish population is a matter for national concern. Improving the health outcomes of more deprived people in Scotland is one of the most important challenges for public health professionals and policy makers to address in the coming years.

“Given that people in more deprived areas are more likely to have multiple health risk factors, now may be the time for a more joined-up approach to public health interventions than we have previously seen. “Our research highlights the need for public health professionals, policy makers and families with children to do more to improve poor eating habits amongst children.”

Herald View: Alcohol habits more nuanced than we think

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: “This Government has banned irresponsible promotions, lowered the drink drive limit and we fund a nationwide alcohol brief intervention programme.

“We’re currently awaiting the outcome of the UK Supreme Court’s decision on minimum unit pricing for alcohol – an initiative that if approved will save lives across Scotland.

“Later this year our Alcohol Strategy will be refreshed to examine additional actions needed to tackle alcohol-related harm in Scotland – not least in our most deprived communities.”