Alcohol Awareness Week is 15-21 November this year. To mark it, we’re looking at the statistics on alcohol consumption in the UK. Shahroo Izadi, our expert on alcohol and addiction also answers a Q&A on alcohol awareness.
What is alcoholism?
Alcoholism is different to ‘harmful drinking’. Harmful drinking is an occasional pattern of drinking which can damage your health.
Alcoholism is the most serious form of problem drinking. It describes a strong, often uncontrollable, desire to drink. Sufferers may place drinking above all other priorities, including work and family. They may also build up a physical tolerance or experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop.
The picture for excessive alcohol consumption in the UK1
- the overall amount of alcohol consumed
- the percentage of people reporting drinking
- the amount they drink have all fallen in the UK
This is especially true among younger people.
There’s been an overall drop in alcohol consumption, alongside an increase in the amount of alcohol drunk by dependent drinkers and a stubborn binge drinking culture.
24% of adults in England and Scotland still regularly drink over the Chief Medical Officer’s low-risk guidelines. 27% of drinkers in Great Britain binge drink, classed as over 8 units for men and over 6 units for women.
Alcohol misuse remains the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15-49 year-olds.
There are an estimated 602,391 dependent drinkers in England, only 18% of which are receiving treatment. Hospitals in England saw a 61% rise in admissions due to alcoholic liver disease from 2008/9 to 2018/19.
Clearly, alcohol awareness programmes still have a place in changing the culture of drinking in the UK.
The COVID question
The pandemic had huge ripple effects across the whole of society. Whilst there was little change in the pattern of consumption for moderate drinkers, heavier drinkers reported significant increases.
A government report found that, between March 2020 and March 2021, there was a 58.6% increase in alcohol consumption amongst the individuals who had been the heaviest drinkers pre-pandemic. There was a clear step-change around the time the pandemic began.
Alcohol deaths in 2020 were the highest for 20 years in England and Wales. The UK saw a 20% increase in alcohol-specific deaths compared to 2019, with significantly higher rates from May 2020 onwards.
Alcohol’s impact on mental health
- Serious physical health impacts, which may decrease quality of life
- Feeling like you must use alcohol (dependency)
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Sudden mood changes
- A negative outlook on life
- Loss of motivation
- Problems with relationships
- Being secretive
- Psychosis, in the case of extreme drinking
The risk of suicide is as much as eight times greater when someone is abusing alcohol. Increased alcohol awareness is important for promoting mental and physical wellbeing.
Alcohol and the workplace
Employed people are more likely to drink heavily than unemployed people. Those in managerial and professional jobs are the most likely of all (around 30% report doing so).
An Institute of Alcohol Studies report calculated the cost of workplace hangovers to the UK economy at £1.2bn to £1.4 bn a year. ‘Lost productivity due to alcohol’ (including sickness absence, premature death, and unemployment) was estimated at £7.3bn a year (2009/10 prices).
The International Labour Organisation estimate that up to 40% of accidents at work involve or are related to alcohol use.
Shahroo Izadi – alcohol and addiction specialist
Elevate’s expert on alcohol and addiction is Shahroo Izadi. She’s a Behavioural Change Specialist in private practice. She’s also an experienced speaker, coach, workshop facilitator and bestselling author. Shahroo has experience across the addiction treatment field in clinical, community and prison settings.
Find out more about Shahroo here: https://www.shahrooizadi.co.uk/
Q&A with Shahroo
How do you think the pandemic has affected people’s drinking habits?
Alcohol has been on heavier rotation as a coping strategy for many people. Whereas alcohol used to be just one of their go-to coping mechanisms for stress, anxiety and boredom, the pandemic reduced the alternatives available. At the same time, people’s level of stress and anxiety increased.
People often struggle to recognise when they’ve become dependent on alcohol – what are some of the signs? (And is there a difference between dependency and addiction?)
Physical addiction, including withdrawal, is incredibly dangerous. The severity of it is often not understood properly when it comes to alcohol. When it comes to day-to-day alcohol consumption, I’d say it’s worth taking a closer look at if, when you try to stop, you find it a lot more difficult than you imagined (or impossible).
How can you best start the conversation with someone you think may have a problem with alcohol?
Tolerance is a good, non-judgemental theme to discuss. For those of us who wish to enjoy drinking forever, there will invariable be a point at which we need to check-in with our habits for our health and wallets.
Good sources of advice and support are:
How best can an employer support their staff when it comes to alcohol and other addictions?
Frame drinking as a solution, not a problem. Help your employees feel that there’s no shame in needing a solution. Encourage them to identify the problem they’re trying to address and explore other solutions that better support their wellbeing. For example, what else can they do to alleviate boredom?
Sobriety seems to be more popular than ever particular in Gen z and millennials. But is sobriety really a better goal than drinking in moderation?
This depends entirely on someone’s relationship with alcohol and can vary wildly between people. For some, the option of sobriety is necessary because of how bad things have got. Or it’s simply easier because there aren’t any negotiations, caveats or decisions to make. Others will find the prospect of restriction overwhelming and unrealistic to the point it becomes counterproductive.
Alcohol Awareness Week (15-21 November 2021)
Elevate has partnered with a wide range of experts for Alcohol Awareness Week. Our experts include Shahroo Izadi, Andy Ramage (founder of One Year No Beer) and Clarke Carlisle (ex- England footballer, mental health advocate and ex-alcoholic). We can offer challenging and inspiring panel discussions, keynote speakers and workshops to raise the profile of alcohol awareness within your organisation.
Get in touch to find out more about what we offer.