It’s around this time of year when our collective alcohol consumption is in the spotlight thanks to the amazing work of Dry July. But COVID-19, social distancing restrictions and the economic hardship that’s come with them, have meant that Aussies are drinking more than ever. Pre-coronavirus statistics showed that 1 in 6 Australians consume alcohol at levels that place them at risk of an alcohol-related disease or injury. New research by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) has found that during the pandemic 70 per cent of Aussies say they’re consuming more alcohol than usual, with one third of people now drinking daily.

While it can be easy to rely on alcohol during times of stress and anxiety, there are major health benefits to reducing consumption to a safe level.

 

What is moderate consumption of alcohol?

Moderate consumption of alcohol for adults is determined by the National Health and Medical Research Council, their current recommendations are that adult consume no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day to reduce their risk of alcohol-related harm. However, they state that the less you choose to drink, the lower your risk of adverse health outcome and for some, not drinking at all is the best option. Children, pregnant and breastfeeding women should not consume alcohol.

What is a standard drink?

  • 100ml wine
  • 285ml full strength beer
  • 60ml port or sherry
  • 30ml spirits

 

What are the risks of excessive alcohol consumption?

 

Alcohol is an important risk factor for mortality, illness and disability and is a considered to be a significant burden of disease worldwide. In the World Health Organisation’s Classification of Disease they have more than 30 conditions with alcohol listed as an underlying cause.

Short term health effects include accidental or deliberate injury to yourself or others, alcohol poisoning, hangovers and road accidents. Long term health effects include impaired mental health with increased risk of suicide, cognitive decline, addiction, fertility issues, brain damage, liver disease and pancreas disease. As well as increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases and cancers such as stomach, bowel and breast cancer.

 

What are the health benefits of drinking less?

 

Reducing your alcohol consumption can dramatically improve your quality of life and your overall health, especially in these areas:

1. Weight loss

Alcohol contains empty calories, meaning that it’s energy-dense and does not contain any beneficial nutrients. It’s also extremely easy to over consume without realising. Cutting back on alcohol is one of the easiest ways to reduce your intake of unnecessary calories. Want more weight loss tips? Here’s our guide to losing weight and keeping it off.

2. Improved sleep quality

It may feel like alcohol helps you fall asleep, however, it actually prevents you from going into a deep, restorative sleep. Reducing your alcohol consumption around bed time (and in general) will help improve your sleep quality and leaving you feeling more rested.

3. Increased energy

Now that you are getting higher quality sleep, you may notice an increase in your energy levels.

4. Improved mental health

Although it feels like a glass of vino (or two) can take the edge off after a long day, actually alcohol is a depressant drug that can increase feelings of anxiety and stress. Hello, hang-xiety.

5. Improved brain function

Alcohol not only affects the brain while you are under the influence (slurred speech sound familiar?) but can lead to long term cognitive decline. Reducing alcohol can improve cognitive function and lead to better focus and concentration.

6. Lower risk of diseases

The risk of all the diseases we listed above as being associated with excess alcohol consumption is reduced when you limit your alcohol consumption.