A Sober Warning
We are all familiar with the sight of a drunken and dishevelled twenty-something after a Friday night on the town. Newspapers are full of horror stories of the social and health effects of alcohol. It is where alcohol excess causes a problem for society in the older generation or in “certain types” that there is the greatest fear. Some would even term it a “Moral Panic”. Drunks sitting on street corners and in doorways with their cheap cider have been a target for both legislation to ban outdoor drinking and measures to increase the unit price of alcohol to deter those who can buy 8 units of paint-stripper quality alcohol for under £2.00.
Caught in between the excesses of youth and the hardened drinker sits those of us of more mature years. Rarely getting more than a little merry we can be complacent knowing that those excesses of youth are behind us and we have not been unlucky or stupid enough to get caught in the trap of alcoholism. Or can we? Recent studies including one by Hanna Watling of Queensland University of Technology suggests that middle aged, middle class people, particularly women seriously under-estimate how much they are drinking. Because they more often drink every day, and at home, women in particular may be accumulating more units per week than their younger counterparts who binge during a night out.
With almost 70% of women now in the full-time workforce, coming home at night, kicking off tight shoes and pouring a G &T might become a too regular habit. We all know that home measures of spirits are rarely the same as a unit measure in a pub. Likewise the glass of wine with dinner is rarely the 125 ml glass and the 8% alcohol of the standard unit either. Just by doing this every working day a woman will consume a minimum of 20 units a week, easily be over her recommended units of 14 a week and a man consuming an equivalent amount will be at 20 out of his 21 units and that is before the weekend where typically, most of us will consume more.
What is the problem you ask? Well perhaps for a lucky few, no problem at all, but statistically speaking, excess drinking over a period of time can have a range of serious health consequences. Firstly, alcohol is laden with hidden calories. There are as many calories in a glass of 13% wine as a fatty, sickly, doughnut so with time most of us will put on a lot of weight and with it, everything which obesity brings. Secondly, the organ which suffers the most is the liver. The liver is the garbage dump of the body, it cleanses and detoxifies. Without it working well, a person’s whole health will suffer. Lastly, long-term excess alcohol causes memory loss and not to mention the effect on your sex life. It isn’t called brewer’s droop for nothing.
So what can you do? Well small changes are generally easier to manage than wholesale self-denial. Different things will work for different people but here are some easy changes any one of which might make a difference for you. Don’t worry, you can just choose one:
- Try to have a gap of 2-3 days a week where you don’t drink at all (this is what the health professionals recommend)
- Swap higher alcohol drinks for lower ones e.g. spritzers
- Buy pre-mixed drinks which most supermarkets now stock. Doing this you will become unit aware.
- Unless you are a wine connoisseur, buy little bottles of wine so that you are not tempted to finish the bottle (because you know wine doesn’t keep!).
- Treat your unit count like you do your bank account, know how much you have to spend and stick to it.
Whichever tip you decide to try, you know you will benefit from it and you might even be able to have a care-free relationship with alcohol, good luck!