The dangers of excessive alcohol have been highlighted many times in recent months thanks to a stark warning from Public Health England (PHE) and the reduction in the weekly alcohol guidelines for men. Professor Dame Sally Davies warned the public that any intake of alcohol could present a danger in terms of increasing the risk of certain cancers, but it appears as though middle-aged men are not heeding these warnings.
In early January 2016, on the back of a report from PHE, the Government announced that the recommended weekly alcohol limit for men would be reduced from 21 units to 14. However, new figures are suggesting that millions of middle-aged men are regularly exceeding that amount. This has prompted calls by health experts for all alcoholic drinks to carry health warnings.
Danger to Health
Alcohol education charity Drinkaware has found that many middle-aged men do not believe that alcohol can harm their health. Around 3.5 million men are consuming more than the recommended fourteen units every week, with many drinking at levels that are known to cause damage to health. Research from Drinkaware found that many men were regularly consuming more than the previously recommended limit of 21 units per week, with men aged between 45 and 64 drinking an average of 37 units per week.
Around 800,000 men were drinking approximately 21 pints per week, which equated to around 50 units. Drinking this amount of alcohol every week is extremely dangerous to health, and those who do so are at risk of being hospitalised for an alcohol-related illness or injury.
Ignorant to Risks
Of those who are drinking more than the recommended weekly limits, 53 per cent do not believe this will harm their health. Around half of these men think that moderate drinking is beneficial to health, according to Drinkaware.
The Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), which represents a number of health experts and charities, believes that people need to be made aware that they are at risk of certain illnesses such as cancer every time they drink alcohol. AHA chair Professor Sir Ian Gilmore said, “These figures are concerning, and demonstrate the need for clear and legible health warnings on labels of alcoholic products, which inform the public of the impact of alcohol on health, and of the chief medical officers’ new alcohol consumption guidelines.”
He said that people need to know how alcohol can affect their health so that they can make informed choices. He also pointed out that there is an unusually low awareness of the link between alcohol and certain illnesses such as cancer, adding, “Recent research carried out by Cancer Research UK found that only around 1 in 10 people is aware of the link between alcohol and cancer. As the chief medical officers explain in their new guidelines, any amount of alcohol increases the risk of developing cancer, along with over 60 other illnesses.”
The Drinkaware survey found that many middle-aged men drink to make themselves feel better or to fit in with their peers. Almost a third of those who consumed more than the weekly guidelines admitted that they were unable to stop drinking while 27 per cent said that they felt guilty about things they did while under the influence.
Drinkaware chief executive, Elaine Hindal, said, “For a large number of middle-aged men, drinking is part of their daily routine and often goes unnoticed. As there are often no immediate negative consequences to their drinking, they are unaware of how their drinking may be impacting on their health.”
Drinking to excess on a regular basis can lead to a number of mental and physical health problems as well as a dependency on alcohol, which can lead to an entirely new set of challenges for those affected.