In the mid-00s, alcohol consumption in England was at a dangerous and all-time high. But today, the public are slowly changing their attitudes towards alcohol.
Despite this, alcohol remains an integral part of the daily lives for millions. Regular drinking to relax after work and a few too many bottles of wine at the weekend go unquestioned – and, in social situations, continue to be glorified.
The dangers of alcohol misuse are well-known: addiction, violence, disease. But few are aware of the threats regular, socially acceptable drinking habits pose to health. Alcohol plays a significant role in chronic diseases and conditions, including – but not limited to - an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and at least seven types of cancer. What’s more, as a significant source of calories, regular or heavy drinking contributes to the weight-gain, obesity, and obesity-related illnesses that further the risk for these chronic diseases and conditions.
Over 10 million people in Britain are drinking in a way that places their health at risk.
Young people (16 -24) have been found to drink less than any other age groups – but, when they do drink, they consume more units than any other on a single occasion. The most harmful drinking behaviours are among middle-aged adults, who are more likely to drink regularly and who have a greater risk for alcohol-related illness.
The benefits of reducing alcohol consumption are far-reaching, and we need to continue to encourage mindfulness and moderation among drinkers.
Public health campaigns confront social attitudes, and while this is an essential avenue for change, we need to work with individuals to make a difference in the lives of those most at risk. Brief conversations with patients are a powerful way to reach a patient and support them to drink less.
Adult men and women should be advised to consume no more than 14 units a week. That’s seven pints of larger, or seven 175ml glasses of wine over the course of a week.
Patients should also be aware that the more they drink, the more they increase their risk of ill-health - with heavy drinking (or ‘binge-drinking’) increasing these risks further. Many will be aware that heavy drinking is harmful, but no level of alcohol is safe.
“The more you drink, the greater the risk to your health. It’s that simple”.
A few drink-free-days a week can be advised as an excellent way to help your patient cut down on their drinking. However, with a drinking culture working against the public, cutting back can feel like an uphill struggle.
In fact, two-thirds of regular drinkers in the UK say cutting down on alcohol is harder than improving diet or exercise.
You can refer your patient to us! We use a framework of evidence-based behavioural science called COM-B to help your patient overcome their barriers to a life free from regular or heavy social drinking. They can register online, or pick up the phone to us. Our service is free to all Dorset residents over the age of 18.
"Loads of us drink too much. I used to drink every day and was horrified to find that my consumption was sometimes in excess of 100 units per week... I had to moderate my drinking".
Written by Phoebe Nicholson (MPH), a health and wellness content writer.