Alcohol ‘biggest cause’ of hospital visits in France

We all know France is synonymous with good wine, but a shocking new report has found that alcohol abuse is now the leading cause of hospital visits in France. Short emergency room stays, for drunken trips and falls, have skyrocketed by 80 percent in three years.

Alcohol 'biggest cause' of hospital visits in France
File photo: Stop Alcohol Deaths, Inc.

No fewer than 400,000 French men and women were sent to hospital in 2012 suffering from illness or injuries caused by alcohol abuse.

This represents a 30 percent jump in just three years, and means that alcohol consumption now accounts for twice as many hospitalizations in France as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Perhaps most alarmingly, the report – conducted by the French Society for the Study of Alcohol, and published by Europe 1 radio on Friday – found a staggering 80 percent rise in short-stay hospital visits, mainly for alcohol-related accidents and falls, and especially among young men and women.

“We’re seeing more and more young people in the emergency room, seriously drunk, who stay for a day or two to sober up,” said Dr. Damien Labarrière, a gastroenterologist in the city of Orléans, south of Paris.

“There has also been an increase in severe health problems among young people, especially diseases of the liver and pancreas. We’re seeing cirrhosis now in people as young as 25 years of age,” Labarrière added.

What is to blame for this explosive rise in alcohol abuse? Co-author of the study, Prof. Michel Reyaud sees perceptions and norms surrounding drinking as the biggest contributing factors for the rise in alcohol-induced comas, hepatitis and psychiatric problems.

“Getting plastered on a night out has become a real badge of honour for many of our young people, especially young women, which is particularly disturbing,” he told Europe 1.

“And drinking early in life only produces more and more dependence later on,” he added.

Friday's revelations come just two weeks after a report which found that 134 people died in France every day, from alcohol-related illnesses and incidents.

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France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.