Ask someone on the street what’s causing alcohol-related harm and they will most likely say “young people and binge drinking”. This issue is splashed across our headlines and screens almost daily. Yet binge drinking is not the only problem, and young people are far from being the only victims or perpetrators of alcohol-related harms. Many of us are drinking at dangerous levels without realising the damage it’s causing or how it contributes to our drinking culture.
Regular drinking plays a major role in heart disease, acquired brain damage, liver cirrhosis and cancer. Alcohol is implicated in over 60 separate diseases. Alcohol advertising never mentions that and many of us don’t think about it. Alcohol companies like us to drink constantly, but they aren’t around to pick up the tab for the cost to many people’s health or the hidden costs to us all of a boozy culture.
Part of the answer lies in the policy changes GrogWatch regularly advocates for such as minimum alcohol pricing, stronger controls on marketing and reducing late night trading hours, but something else is needed.
What about us? Are we partly responsible for the mess? Ghandi said if we want a better world we should change ourselves first. We should act as though the world has already changed in the way we want.
Is alcohol always on our table? Is it part of every celebration? Do we accidently drink too much because someone kept topping up our glass? Perhaps it’s time to stop and think what role it plays in our lives?
People who drink a lot usually think their friends drink the same, so they drink to keep up¹. Funnily enough, this means your friends may be drinking in order to keep up with you. We are not only role models for our children, but for each other too. That’s why when one person cuts down others in their circle do the same¹. FebFast, Dry July, Ocsober and Hello Sunday Morning suddenly become popular. A lot of us, maybe secretly, want to drink less.
Whether we want to or not, we have to cut back the amount that we drink. One in five Australians drinks at levels that puts them at risk of harm over their lifetime². That person could be ourselves, but if it’s not us, chances are it’s one of our close friends, or family members.
December is party season in Australia when drinking too much it not only accepted, it’s encouraged for all ages.
Tell us how you are going to model responsible drinking for your family and friends.
GrogWatch is interested to hear your strategy.
1. Demant J., & Jarvinen M. (2011) Social capital as norms and pressures: Focus groups discussing alcohol Addiction Research and Theory 19(2), 91-101.
2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2011) 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey report, Canberra: AIHW