Written by Kamal Preet Kaur
A survey of over 1000 British Sikhs shows that 61% of respondents (64% of men and 56% of women) currently consume alcohol while 9% are now in recovery. The respondents have stated that the greatest challenges in staying sober are social temptation (21%), depression and lack of purpose (14%), boredom (14%) and easy access to alcohol (12%).
The survey report titled ‘Impacts of alcohol consumption amongst Sikhs’ was recently launched in the Parliament. This report is a collaborative effort of the Sikh Recovery Network (SRN) – a community group working with victims of substance abuse — and British Sikh Report (BSR) team of experts who “have developed robust and unrivalled statistical information about Sikhs living in Britain”. The purpose of the report was to investigate and understand the reality of alcohol consumption amongst Sikhs in the UK so as to give alcohol rehab service providers information to identify gaps and tailor their approach accordingly, say the researchers.
SRN founder Jaz Rai, a recovering alcoholic who uses personal moving experiences to help others from the community struggling with addiction, told the Indian Express that the survey was essential to establish the changing drinking patterns within the community and to gather evidence for the addiction service providers so that they could cater better to the needs of diverse communities speaking different languages like Punjabi, Hindi or Urdu. He said, “More and more British Sikh women are now drinking alcohol. Alcohol addiction remains a taboo in the community but is spreading like cancer and needs to be spoken about and help needs to be provided to those wanting to recover.”
“We are not only taking the findings of our survey to various government departments but also to the service providers so that their helplines can reach out to the Punjabi speaking population in the Midlands and other areas,” said Rai.
Meanwhile, the survey has uncovered that 21% of respondents who drink alcohol have had thoughts of suicide and 6% of respondents had made an attempt to end their life. Notwithstanding the above, the report also uncovers the impact that the ‘problematic drinker’ has on the family with 84% of problematic drinkers having children.
Among those who currently consume alcohol, 18% said they drink alcohol at least 4 times every week (20% of women and 17% of men); 21% of respondents in full time employment and 16% of those in part time employment said they drink alcohol at least 4 times every week, compared with 10% of those who are unemployed.
Also, 12% of women and 18% of men drink 10 or more units of alcohol per day. 32% only drink 1 – 2 units of alcohol per day and 27% drink 3 – 4 units per day. 9% of those aged 50 – 64 years consumed 10 or more units of alcohol per day, the highest of all age groups.
Of the problematic drinkers, 7% of respondents said that they could not stop drinking alcohol, once they had started; 4% said that alcohol consumption resulted in them being unable to complete tasks expected of them almost daily, and another 6% on a weekly basis; 12% said that they had suffered an injury as a result of drinking alcohol; 33% of respondents who are ‘problematic drinkers’ said there are times when they are unable to remember the previous night due to alcohol (3% daily, 5% weekly, 6% monthly); 23% said others had suggested that they should reduce their alcohol intake.
Jagdev Singh Virdee MBE, editor and Statistician for BSR and this report, told the IE, “The survey achieved 1,095 valid responses spread across the United Kingdom, and it is a reliable sample of British Sikhs. The survey was primarily conducted online, but there was a concerted effort to supplement that sample with questionnaires to reach those without internet access. Responses were monitored and particular areas of shortfall were targeted to ensure that the overall sample was representative of Sikhs in Britain in terms of age group, gender, marital status and region.
“These statistics show that the reality of alcohol consumption amongst Sikhs today is very different to the assumptions that exist. They highlight the often-hidden impacts of problematic drinking on those around the individual concerned, on their families and friends, as well as on their own mental and physical health. Those working in the sector should take note of the statistics when devising strategies to tackle this issue.”
Liam Byrne MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children of Alcoholics, who hosted the launch event at Parliament, said, “This survey was really necessary, policy makers need the data to inform decisions, and this is a landmark study.”
According to Director of Communications at the National Association of Children of Alcoholics Dr Piers Henriques, “This landmark report shows that the Sikh community is in no way isolated from the wider harms faced by the rest of the UK, which is seeing record related deaths year on year. That those caught in active addiction and those in their friends and family are less likely, compared with the wider British population, to reach out for mainstream services means that this hidden harm will only be greater and more intense.”
“Though findings of the survey are sobering, the fact that nearly 40% of the Sikhs do not consume alcohol despite the culture and prevalence, gives us hope for the future,” said Sukhwinder Singh, president of International Khalsa Organisation, who has been using theatre play ‘Nasheyan di Jawani’ to raise awareness against addiction.
India-UK to sign YPS letter on Monday
High Commissioner of India to the UK, HE Vikram K Doraiswami, and Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft, will be signing and exchanging Young Professional Scheme (YPS) letters on Monday January 9, at the Indian High Commission in London. According to the scheme, both India and UK will allow 3,000 young professionals between the ages of 18-30 years, to work in each other’s country for a period of two years, a senior HCI official told the Indian Express. The UK government’s official guideline says that those coming from India must have at least £2,530 in the bank account to show that they can support themselves in the UK. That amount needs to be available in the account for 28 days and must be within the 31 days of applying for this visa. The YPS would be based on a ballot system, similar to the Youth Mobility Scheme visa UK runs with other countries where an applicant enters a ballot by sending an email. These ballots open in January and July each year and most applicants are usually chosen in January and the remaining places are allocated in the July ballot.
(The writer is a freelance journalist based in London contributing content to digital, print, radio and TV platforms.)
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