Plea for people in North Wales to rethink drinking following pandemic changes to alcohol habits
People in North Wales are being asked to rethink their drinking following a warning that ‘hidden’ alcohol consumption could be putting their health at risk.
Widespread changes in drinking habits following the COVID-19 pandemic could mean many more people are damaging their wellbeing by drinking more, and more often.
More than 60% of people who completed the health board’s online alcohol assessment tool over the last six months were found to be at increasing or higher risk of alcohol-related harm.
This Alcohol Awareness Week, people across North Wales are being urged to reconsider their alcohol consumption as part of the Rethinking Our Drinking campaign being run by the health board and its partners.
National research has shown that around one in three people throughout Wales increased how much alcohol they drank during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Changes to routines – including furlough, and flexible and home working – were a significant contributor, alongside pandemic-linked mental health conditions including anxiety and depression, and boredom and loneliness.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show alcohol-related deaths in Wales increased to their highest level on record during 2021.
Betsi Cadwaladr Executive Director of Public Health Teresa Owen said the pandemic had prompted a change in our relationship with alcohol.
“Lifestyle changes made during COVID-19 lockdowns have left some people drinking more and drinking more often – frequently at home, and sometimes enabled or encouraged by new working patterns and social habits,” she said.
“As a result, more and more people who might not think of themselves as drinking too much could be at risk of causing themselves harm. This hidden drinking can creep up on people without them realising it, increasing the likelihood of a wide range of health and social problems.
“So this Alcohol Awareness Week and throughout the summer, we are asking everyone across North Wales to rethink their drinking – by taking a moment to consider how much and how often they drink, and to look at ways they could improve their wellbeing by cutting down.”
Guidelines from the UK’s Chief Medical Officers recommend not regularly drinking more than 14 units of alcohol per week, and spreading drinking over three or more days. They say one or two heavy drinking sessions a week increases the risk of long-term illness, accidents and injuries.
Other benefits of cutting back on alcohol often include sleeping better, losing weight and better skin – as well as saving money.
Caren Brown, from Bethesda, cut down then stopped drinking in 2020 after realising the impact alcohol was having on her lifestyle. The 54-year-old said the decision changed her life for the better.
“I just felt as if I was on a hamster wheel,” she said. “I thought ‘This isn’t right, you know – this is getting a bit out of hand now…’
“Life is smoother, definitely. I’ve been really happy… I’ve got a lot more money to do things that I enjoy. I’ve got a lot more patience, and life is just enjoyable.
“I can get a lot more done in my life, I’m a lot healthier. And those around me they say I’m a lot more fun to be around.”
Caren appears in a special Rethinking Our Drinking campaign video to showcase the benefits of reducing alcohol intake.
Rethinking our Drinking
The health board’s Rethinking our Drinking webpage offers an accredited bilingual online alcohol assessment tool, advice and tips to cut down, links to support services and self-help resources. Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com