A new study says mothers are turning to the bottle, to cope with the pressure of being ‘supermums’, putting their children at risk of depression and anxiety.
Alcohol misuse within families is an “escalating concern” according to Turning Point, which provides services for people with complex issues, including drug and alcohol misuse and mental health problems.
The report, Bottling It Up: The Next Generation, has warned that 2.6 million children in the UK are living with a parent who drinks at hazardous levels.
Between 2010 and 2011, 12,248 people used Turning Point’s alcohol treatment services, half of whom (5,326) were parents with mothers making up more than a third (1,925) of that figure.
The average alcohol consumption of parents was 30 units per day (10 times recommended limits) – 24 for mothers and 33 for fathers – the equivalent of three bottles of wine or up to 15 pints of beer.
Turning point’s report stated: ‘A key issue was that mothers often felt under pressure to be “perfect” and that alcohol was a way of coping with the demands of motherhood.
‘Some said a lack of support from their partners was a trigger for their drinking.
‘Others were drinking at least three nights a week and consuming more than 70 units – the equivalent of nearly eight bottles of wine.
‘Their drinking was often in secret when their children had gone to bed.’
One 35-year-old mother explained: ‘I was trying to be Superwoman and I was too stubborn to ask for help.
‘I felt I had to be the best mother I could possibly be. I was having two bottles of white wine a night, then I switched to vodka because people wouldn’t smell it on me.
‘I’d only drink after I’d put (my son) to bed so on the outside I appeared to be functioning.’
The report found that children’s mental health could be affected by parental drinking, with eating disorders, depression and even psychosis developing in adulthood.
Children living with affected parents were also found to be more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol at an earlier age and to progress to problematic use, the report added.
Of 100 parents surveyed, 28% said their drinking meant their children often either missed school or found it difficult to concentrate at school.
More than half (55%) believed it had led to increased anger, anxiety and depression in their children.
A separate poll of more than 1,000 people across the country found that almost a quarter of parents are concerned about their own drinking, on a scale from slightly to very concerned.
More than half (52%) had allowed their children to drink. Of these, 77% let their children drink under the age of 16.
A worrying total of 6% allowed children aged 10 and under to drink alcohol.
Regional manager Darren Woodward, from Turning Point’s substance misuse services, added: ‘Alcohol misuse is a hidden and growing problem which affects the whole family.
‘When an adult has an alcohol problem, children suffer too.
‘This can impact on how well they do at school, their job prospects and their mental health.’