Are you drinking enough? This is not a trivial question.
It used to be said that non-drinkers lived longer, although maybe without consuming Bacchus’s fine gift it just seems longer. Yet health researcher after health researcher is discovering that in general teetotallers actually do die younger, yet this now-established fact is still conspicuously absent from most “official” alcohol guidelines, which are generally written by wowsers instead of researchers.
Consider new British guidelines which, despite all the abundant new evidence,
still recommend that men cut back their drinking from 21 units per week to 14, the amount suggested for women. They also advise pregnant women, who had previously been told they could safely drink one or two units per week, to completely abstain. And, in a rather prophetic move, the new guidelines offer the same advice for women who ‘think they could become pregnant.’
Fourteen units is the equivalent of about six pints of lager or seven glasses of wine. We were helpfully reminded of this by press reports, because normal people measure drinks in glasses or bottles, not in scientific units.
Very true. Although I do like to measure my own by the gallon.
Public-health bores want us to be afraid of alcohol. But this doesn’t make a lot of sense, considering the substantial amount of evidence that drinking in moderation has health benefits. It is what’s called a ‘J curve’: the risk of mortality is lower for people who drink moderately than for people who do not drink at all. The risk only starts to rise once drinking increases past a certain point; and you would have to consume a significant amount more than the weekly guidelines allow to reach the same risk of mortality as a teetotaller.
And you’d at least you’d be having more fun.
I am nothing if not meticulous in my research. So, having polished off my 14 units, I took the online Drinkaware quiz, ‘Are you drinking too much?’. I was told my drinking habits were ‘low-risk’, but not completely safe, ‘because drinking alcohol is never completely safe’. Given that drinking some alcohol is less risky than not drinking any, shouldn’t the website also provide a quiz for teetotallers titled, ‘Are you drinking enough?’.
I agree it should. It might also proffer the advice to drivers who drive while stressed – dangerously -- and as we all know, there’s one sure and rapid solution to that too!
Anayway, I went and tested our own local “Is Your Drinking Okay?” quiz, to be told my drinking is “medium risk.” It doesn’t say of what, but it does recommend cutting down rather than abstinence, so at least it’s better (somewhat) than the Brits’ version. Although our own official lemon-sucker, Doud Sellman, is still sicking to the ‘no safe level’ drivel.
As Naomi Firsht concludes at Spiked however:
While it is nice that the government has decided to stop scaremongering about the odd night down the pub, it would be nicer still if it realised that, while health information is useful, telling the public how many drinks they should have is not in its remit. Hopefully everyone will take the guidelines with a large pinch of salt – before downing a tequila shot.
UPDATE: Good to see a young man setting an example on the weekend. A drink? He’d sure as hell earned it: