January starts off with a bang and Cancer Research UK’s Drylathon Campaign. Men and women across the country are being challenged to lay off the booze in January to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
Cancer Research UK is encouraging people to go teetotal for the month as part of Dryathlon, their new year funding campaign. So-called ‘dryathletes’ pledge to drop the drink, either getting sponsorship from friends, or agreeing to donate the money they would have spent on alcohol to the charity.
Over 35,000 ‘dryathletes’ quit drinking for the charity’s first Dryathlon campaign in January 2013, which raised over £3m.
Whilst campaigns like this are always welcome, what is the truth with the UK and our relationship to alcohol? The Office for National Statistics has just released its latest data (2012) on drinking habits in the UK. The headline results are quite surprising and include,
- Drinking levels actually fell in Britain during the recession. Between 2005 and 2012, the proportion of men who drank alcohol in the week before being interviewed fell from 72 per cent to 64 per cent, and the proportion of women went down from 57 per cent to 52 per cent.
- Young people (those aged 16-24) were more likely to have drunk very heavily (more than 12 units for men and nine units for women) at least once during the week (27 per cent). But when it came to the frequency of drinking, the highest proportion was at the opposite end of the scale, in people aged 65 and over – 23 per cent of men and 14 per cent of women.
So what does this mean for your health and why should you take part in initiatives such as the Dryathlon?
There are many health risks associated with drinking alcohol and it’s not just how much you consume but how quickly you consume it that alters your health risk. Researchers say binge drinkers have a risk of heart disease twice that of people who consume the same amount of alcohol but more steadily.
Regularly drinking to excess can increase your risk of serious illnesses, such as cancer. In the UK, one in three people will develop cancer at some point in their lives. Alcohol causes around 4% of cancer cases in the UK every year – that’s around 12,500 cases.
Also, the chances of developing diabetes may depend on a mix of your genes and your lifestyle. However, drinking to excess can help to cause diabetes. This is mainly because heavy drinking can reduce the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which can trigger type 2 diabetes. You should also bear in mind that alcohol contains a huge amount of calories – one pint of lager can be equivalent to a slice of pizza. So drinking can also increase your chance of becoming overweight and again, increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
In essence, it’s important to keep within the recommended alcohol limits. The official advice in the UK is that women should not regularly drink more than two to three units (about two glasses of wine or one pint of beer) a day and men should not regularly drink more than three to four units a day.