This week (16th-22nd November) is alcohol awareness week, and the theme this year is alcohol and mental health. According to charity Alcohol Change UK, over half (53%) of UK drinkers have turned to alcohol for mental health reasons during the pandemic, such as feeling anxious, stressed or worried, feeling bored, having trouble sleeping, or feeling sad or low – at least once in the past six months. Unfortunately, those worst affected have been BAME, young people aged 18-34 and parents of under 18s, with 68%, 63%, and 59% respectively drinking for mental health reasons, compared to those who are White British, older, do not have children/have children over 18.
Drinking alcohol is often perceived as helping us to relax because it initially promotes dopamine release, however it is also a depressant meaning it can often worsen mood over time and exacerbate anxiety, stress and depression. In particular, depression and heavy drinking have a mutually reinforcing relationship – meaning that either condition increases a person’s chances of experiencing the other.
So, what are the recommendations for alcohol in the UK?
The UK Chief Medical Officer advises drinking no more than 14 units maximum spread across a week, which is equivalent to:
6 pints (568ml) of beer
6 medium (175ml) glasses of wine
14 shots (25ml) of spirits such as vodka, gin or rum
A combination of the above
Tips to reduce alcohol intake
- Use smaller glasses
- Buy smaller bottles e.g. beer/cider
- Measure shots rather than pouring free-hand
- Try low or no-alcohol alternatives instead
- Keep alcohol consumption to mealtimes
- Allocate at least a few drink-free days per week
- Keep track of your units
- Seek support from your partner/family/friends