The UK Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines on low risk drinking recommend that adults should not regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. People who drink as much as 14 units a week are advised to spread their drinking over three or more days in the week. Women who are pregnant, or who think that they could be, are advised that it is safest not to drink at all.
The Welsh Health Survey in 2015 found that 40 per cent of adults reported drinking above the previous recommended daily guidelines, including around a quarter (24 per cent) who reported binge drinking. People, however, do not necessarily drink at these levels regularly. Around 15% of adults reported that they were non drinkers.
Figures from the Welsh Health Survey suggest that the proportion of adults drinking above guidelines and binge drinking has decreased since 2008, and that the decrease is more marked in men and in the younger age groups.
A recent report by Public Health England identified a number of ways that alcohol harms the health both of the drinker and those around them. The immediate risks of heavy drinking include alcohol poisoning, injuries, emotional and relationship problems.
In the long term, drinking any amount of alcohol regularly increases the risk of a range of illnesses including breast and bowel cancer. For most people there are no health benefits to drinking.
The Benefits of Low or No Alcohol
- More Energy
- Improved Skin
- Improved fitness
- Helps maintain a healthy weight
- Lower Risk of High Blood Pressure
- Lower Risk of certain Cancers
- Improved Memory
- Lower Risk of Brain Damage
- Decreased Anxiety
There are also social and financial benefits associated with drinking less or no alcohol.
"Are you interested in making a change to the amount of alcohol you drink?"
- Know how many alcohol units you are drinking (1 pint of beer or cider (4% strength) is at least 2.3 units and 1 standard glass of wine (175ml) is at least 2.1 units).
- Keep the amount of alcohol you drink within the recommended limits of no more than 14 units of alcohol a week for both men and women
- If you do drink as much as 14 units per week, best to spread this evenly over 3 days or more
- Avoid alcohol if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
- If over 65, it is recommended not to drink more than 1.5 units in one day
- This will reduce your risk of stroke, heart and liver disease, several cancers, work and family problems, accidents and violent incidents and damage to your baby if pregnant.
- Cutting back on alcohol can also help you to save money, lose weight, feel better in the mornings, have more energy and feel less tired during the day, feel in better shape and make your skin look better.
- Advise your client to try the following:
- Have several alcohol free days each week
- Swap your usual for: a smaller drink e.g. a smaller glass of wine or a bottle of beer over a pint; a lower-strength drink e.g. one with less units or lower alcohol content (ABV); a soft drink/glass of water; or drink only with a meal
- On a night out: set yourself a limit on how much you will drink; set yourself a budget; start drinking later; sit out a round, buy yourself a soft drink when it’s your round; replace your usual with a smaller glass or lower-strength drink.
- Signpost to Change4Life Wales alcohol information pages to help them calculate the number of units they drink and for ways to cut down www.change4lifewales.org.uk
- If trained to do so, help them calculate the amount of units they drink and offer a brief intervention, if appropriate. Training on delivering Alcohol Brief Interventions is available through the contact below.
- If the person is worried about their own or someone else’s drinking signpost to their GP or to DAN 24/7, the free Wales Drug and Alcohol Helpline Tel: 0808 808 2234 or visit www.dan247.org.uk
For more information, contact Cheryl Williams, Principal Health Promotion Specialst