Despite alcohol being a legal substance and easily available, it can be harmful when consumed in large quantities. Early in 2016, the UK Government issued new guidelines for alcohol consumption, which saw the recommended weekly limit for men drop to 14 units to bring it in line with the limit for women.
The report, which was conducted by Public Health England, advised that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption in terms of reducing the risk of certain illnesses such as cancer and dementia. These guidelines were intended to educate the public about the dangers of high levels of alcohol consumption and to give people more information about how much alcohol they should be sticking to each week.
In the face of these new guidelines, it was expected that many people would reduce their alcohol intake, but it appears as though a significant number of individuals are continuing to drink heavily, despite the warnings over health concerns. New research has shown that many middle-aged people in the UK are drinking the equivalent of the weekly limit in just one night.
The study details how many drinkers will pre-load with alcohol before heading out for a night on the town, and many finish off the evening back at their home or a friends house with more alcohol. This level of alcohol consumption can quickly add up to the weekly limit of 14 units or more in just one session.
The research was carried out by the Alcohol Research Group of the University of Sheffield and funded by Alcohol Research UK. It found that of the 60,000 people questioned, twenty-three per cent had admitted to a night of heavy drinking the week before.
Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Most people assume that it is only the younger generation who drink harmful quantities of alcohol, but this research has shown that older age groups are also drinking more than they should. According to senior research fellow John Holmes, “People are drinking both before and after going to restaurants and pubs. Generally, we only talk about young people pre-loading, but this is also an issue among older age groups. For those in middle-age, it’s probably not drinking before going out and tearing up the town, but it leads to them consuming the same amount as younger age groups, which obviously affects their health long-term if they’re doing it regularly.”
It is not just those who go out and pre-load on alcohol beforehand who are drinking too much. Couples sitting in at the weekend often drink the equivalent of a bottle of wine each, which amounts to around 11 or 12 units of alcohol each.
James Nicholls of Alcohol Research UK said, “Rather than assuming society is neatly divided between ‘binge’, ‘heavy’ or ‘moderate’ drinkers, we should think about the occasions on which people drink more or less heavily – and the fact we may be moderate in some contexts and less so in others.”
Dangers of Heavy Drinking
Those who drink large amounts of alcohol are putting their health at risk both in the short and the long-term. Being under the influence of alcohol can lead to a number of dangerous consequences, including the risk of accidents and injuries requiring hospital treatment. Alcohol can also cause individuals to become aggressive or violent, which could lead to harming themselves or others; they could also find themselves in trouble with the police.
Other short-term consequences include sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancies due to having unsafe sex. Long-term consequences include the risk of developing conditions such as liver disease, heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Alcohol is directly linked to seven types of cancer: bowel, breast, liver, mouth, throat, oesophagus, and larynx.