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Alcohol and relationships: a sobering thought

Alcohol awareness week is an annual awareness campaign ran by Alcohol Change UK and the theme for 2021 is ‘Alcohol and relationships’.

The link between alcohol and relationship is strong, with many of us associating alcohol with socialising. Alcohol can become a big part of our connections and interactions with those around us, but when our own or a loved one’s drinking starts to negatively affect our relationships or stands in the way of us taking actions on our own drinking, it can hugely impact our lives.

Research shows that many people have found themselves drinking more to deal with feelings of loneliness and isolation during the pandemic. Since leaving lockdown and beginning to return to normal life, you may be experiencing pressures to drink, begin drinking to cope with social anxiety and be putting pressure on yourself to get back to ‘normal’ socialising.

The facts and figures

In England, 40% of adults drink over the recommended 14 units per week and 27% of drinkers in Great Britain binge drink on their heaviest drinking days (over 8 units for men and over 6 units for women).

Binge drinking has a direct link with anti-social behaviour and violence 39% of people in England and Wales in 2018/19 stating they witnessed any type of anti-social behaviour in their local area. 11% of this anti-social behaviour was alcohol related.

Data from the Alcohol Toolkit Study indicated one in five people in England were harmed by others drinking in 2018/19.

Alcohol and the workplace

Our relationships don’t just include our personal lives, but our working lives as well.

If drinking is interfering with your work, you’re probably a heavy drinker. If work is interfering with your drinking, you’re probably an alcoholic” – Unknown.

You may not think that alcohol and the workplace have much of a link, but did you know that lost productivity due to alcohol use costs the UK economy more than £7 billion each year?

People may attend work hungover, or still under the influence from the night before, consume alcohol before work or during the day; or their work may be affected by health problems resulting from drinking. Alcohol Change UK share a few examples:

  • 40% of employers mention alcohol as a significant cause of low productivity
  • Between 3% and 5% of all work absence is caused by alcohol consumption
  • 35% of people say they’ve noticed colleagues under the influence of drugs and alcohol at work
  • 25% say that drugs or alcohol have affected them at work, with 23% saying they had experienced decreased productivity as a result

However, workplaces don’t just suffer from the effects of alcohol but can sometimes heighten the problem. 27% of people say that workplace stress makes them drink more. Many workplace cultures also encourage drinking, whether through informal socialising or workplace events where drinking is considered the norm and alcohol is often made available for free.

What can you do to raise awareness around this subject in the workplace?

First things first, think about your company-wide events. You can’t stop staff drinking socially out of working hours but if you are hosting team events, you could encourage organisers to consider alcohol free activities and dinners as opposed to parties.

Secondly, you could implement a wellbeing strategy that allows employees to assess their lifestyle choices. Our digital platform, MyWellbeingCheck, covers seven wellbeing topics including alcohol. Based on the outcome of their report, MyWellbeingCheck will provide employees with areas that they could make some positive changes and tips on how to do so.

Lastly, take advantage of awareness campaigns. By encouraging employees to speak about this topic at a time where it is being spoken about nationally will help them to feel less ‘put out’ by opening up about their relationship with alcohol. Alcohol Change UK have an article on their website about how you can implement an awareness campaign within your workplace and you can access it here.

To find out more about MyWellbeingCheck from Healthy Performance, please visit:

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