A report in the Lancet (Embargo 12 April 2018 23:30), funded by the British Heart Foundation, suggests that the weekly alcohol intake should be set at 100g a week for men and women. This equates to five or six standard glasses of wine or pints of beer and is in line with UK government guidelines published in 2016.
Steve Moffatt, Public Policy Manager at Drug and Alcohol charity Addaction welcomed the report and said the public health focus should increasingly be on at-risk groups.
“The effects of alcohol vary quite a bit from person to person, especially as we get older. It’s important to remember that if you have health problems or use medications, these can also affect how much you are able to drink.
There is some evidence that British people are drinking less than they used to, although more than one in four of the adult UK population exceeds recommended weekly guidelines.
“There’s an interesting generational picture emerging. Younger people are drinking less than in the past, while consumption is increasing among older people,” said Mr Moffatt.
Julie Breslin leads a National Lottery-funded project called Drink Wise, Age Well – aimed at older drinkers.
“We’ve found that older adults are sometimes drinking to cope with major life changes such as retirement and bereavement and are facing this battle alone. We all need to work together to reduce the stigma around older drinkers, so they feel they can talk to health professionals, family and friends unashamedly and without fear of judgement,” said Ms Breslin.
She added: “Adults aged over 50 want to maintain their independence, health and wellbeing for as long as possible and it is important that reliable and accessible information is made available in the form of early prevention programmes and alcohol screenings. We must also ensure that alcohol treatment is readily available and accessible to anyone who needs it.”
If you’re struggling, don’t suffer in silence – help is available. If you want to take the first step, Addaction has a free and confidential webchat service (www.addaction.org.uk)
How do I know if I’m drinking too much?
There are lots of signs to look out for that may indicate that you’re drinking more alcohol than is safe or healthy for you. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you need to drink more alcohol to get the same effect as you used to?
- When talking with others, do you ever underestimate how much you actually drink?
- Do you ever skip a meal because you don’t feel hungry after a few drinks?
- Do you find yourself taking a drink to “take the edge off”, calm your nerves, or take your mind off your problems?
- Have you ever increased your drinking after experiencing a loss in your life?
- Has a relative, friend, doctor or nurse ever said they were worried or concerned about your drinking?
- Have you ever made rules to manage your drinking?
If your answer to some of these questions is “yes” then you may want to think more about how much you choose to drink.
How can I cut down on my drinking?
There are lots of ways in which you can drink a little less alcohol and feel the benefits that come with cutting down. If you want to cut down your drinking try:
- Eating something before you have a drink, this will help slow down the absorption of alcohol into your body
- Having between 2 to 3 alcohol-free days a week
- Using smaller glasses or a unit measuring cup, it can be harder to keep track of how much you’re drinking at home
- Avoid topping up your glass as this can help keep track of your drinks
- Setting a timescale for each drink to make it last longer
- Having a soft drink or water with, or after, each alcoholic drink
- Try focusing on your hobbies, interests, and social opportunities that don’t involve alcohol.
The government set new alcohol guidelines in 2016. Guidelines for men and women are now the same and recommend that:
- You should not regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week
- You spread the 14 units over at least three days of the weekYou try to have regular alcohol free days