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Alcohol Awareness Week: Understanding Alcohol Harm

Alcohol Awareness Week 1 to 7 July 2024

Alcohol Awareness Week is an opportunity to reflect on our drinking habits and take time to understand the harms from drinking alcohol at risky levels. For those of you reading this blog, we hope you can begin to discuss issues of alcohol in your environment and make changes.

“I need to lose a stone. I know that alcohol doesn’t help, that’s why I have my belly.”

“I’m not sure it would feel like a Friday night if I didn’t have a drink to unwind.”

“There were too many nights when I got too drunk. It had got beyond being fun as I felt out of control.”

“I was using alcohol as a mask to stop me dealing with my mental health problems. However, it was just making the problem worse.”

 “You know, if you can’t cope, I mean it [alcohol] helps you, you can block… take the pain away as it were.”

Do any of these sound familiar? These are voices from East Sussex residents, going about their lives, balancing the stresses of their private, work, and social life. Alcohol, like many aspects of health, exists on a spectrum and manifests in various behaviours: drinking to relax, to be content, to be confident, to socialise, to escape, and to cope.

Person sitting at table holding pint of alcohol and phone

As part of Alcohol Awareness Week, this blog aims to provide context on alcohol harm and encourage people address alcohol-related issues within ourselves, our communities, and organisations.

The Path to Alcohol Harm

The pathway to alcohol harm involves three stages:

  1. Harm itself: affecting people in many ways such as impacting health, social life, and economy
  2. Levels of Consumption: The more you drink at risky levels, binge drink, drink regularly and are dependant, the more severe the harm
  3. Affordability, availability, and acceptability: If alcohol is more available, more affordable, and more acceptable, consumption increases, leading to greater harm

Recognising this path understands the importance of the Chief Medical Officers’ advice to not drink more than 14 units a week. According to the Health Survey for England, an estimated 29% of men and 15% of women in the Southeast regularly exceed this guideline, putting those adults at a higher risk of alcohol-related harm.

How to calculate the units in an alcoholic beverage?  (Total Volume (ml)*ABV (Alcohol by volume strength)) / 1000

Number of alcohol units in the typical drink amounts including glasses of wine, beer

Alcohol and how it affects the workplace

An estimated 25 million people in England regularly drink alcohol, and statistically they are more likely to be in employment.

Alcohol use can have a significant impact on businesses and the workplace. It is considered that approximately 5% of all work absences are estimated to be alcohol related. That’s 167,000 working years lost to alcohol each year! 40% of employers cite alcohol as a significant cause of low productivity, which in-turn costs the UK economy around £7 billion a year.

Why Does it Matter to You?

Alcohol harm affects us all. It ripples out to our families, friends, communities, and broader society. Alcohol often takes a centre-stage role in our lives, promoted during our favourite sports events, advertised during our commutes, and featured in our favourite films and TV shows.

Despite its popularity and our cultural perceptions, alcohol negatively impacts our health and wellbeing daily. From disrupting our sleep quality, to our relationships with those we love. Each year, thousands of people experience long-term health problems because of the alcohol they drink, or can die from alcohol-related causes.

However, this is preventable! It is time for alcohol to surrender its dominant role in our lives and society. By opening conversations about alcohol harm and working to reduce it, we can create an environment where making informed choices about drinking is easier.

Taking Action

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol-related issues, numerous resources are available for support and guidance:

Join the Wellbeing at Work Webinar Series on ‘Understanding Alcohol Harms’ on Tuesday 2 July at 1pm. Book your ticket here.

References

Alcohol Change UK

NHS: Alcohol Misuse Overview

NHS: Health Survey for England 2021 – Part 3

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