Ladies Who Lunch Drive Up Drinking Rate Among Rich
A slew of recent studies argue that more wealth brings better health—from longer lives to lower disability rates.
But wealth may bring a negative side-effect to one group: ladies who lunch.
A new study from British research firm CACI looked at the most affluent postal codes in Great Britain and examined their reported health and lifestyles. It found that just under two-thirds of the women in those posh enclaves consumed more than three units of alcohol a day—above the national recommended health limit. A "unit" is equal to a small glass of wine.
The study also found that women the wealthiest areas have higher levels of mental illness, depression and nervous conditions.
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Men in those postal codes also had higher-than-normal levels of anxiety and nervous conditions but were not nearly as prone to drinking as much.
Patrick Tate, the director of analytics for CACI, said that the finding reflects women having free time and money.
"A lot of them are very sociable, and they don't need to work," he said. "They are typical ladies who lunch. They wouldn't think twice about going shopping, meeting up with friends with a few glasses of wine and then having even more glasses of wine with their dinner."
The survey, which first appeared in London's Sunday Times, also found evidence of what's known as the "footballers' wives" effect. In neighborhoods with a high concentration of professional football (i.e., soccer) players, women were even more likely to consume more than three units of alcohol a day.
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Tate said that footballers' wives are generally very fit and healthy, "so they can mask the effects" of the alcohol more effectively.
Of course, it's no surprise that ladies who lunch drink. But the study shows how being part of the leisure class can also be unhealthful.
"Long term, this can certainly create health issues for these women," Tate said.
—By CNBC's Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter @robtfrank.