Alcohol Awareness Week 2020
Alcohol Awareness Week 2020 takes place between the 16 – 22 November, and this year’s theme is alcohol awareness and mental health. Each year Alcohol Change UK commits to organising events to raise awareness about alcohol during this national annual campaign.
Alcohol and Mental Health
Alcohol can be an important part of culture and society – but drinking a lot of alcohol can make a person more vulnerable to developing mental health issues. In the UK, it is estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health issue every year 1 – and this number may be more severe during the COVID-19 pandemic.2 Often when we feel overwhelmed, stressed and low we turn towards alcohol as a coping mechanism, but too much drinking may actually make these feelings worse.
How can you keep track of your drinking? Alcohol measurements are described as units, and the number of units a drink has is based on the size of the drink and the alcohol strength.3 Men and women in the UK are advised to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week – spreading this amount over three or more days. This unit calculator from Alcohol Change UK can help you keep track of the units of alcohol you’re drinking.
How much is 14 Units?
Below is a guide to give you an idea of approximately how much 14 units4 is:
- 1 Standard glass of red/white/rosé wine (175ml, alcohol volume 12%) is 1 units, so approximately 6 ½ glasses will equal 14 units
- 1 Pint of higher-strength lager/beer/cider (alcohol volume 5.2%) is 3 units, so approximately 4 ½ pints will equal 14 units
- 1 Single small shot of spirits (25ml, alcohol volume 40%) is 1 unit, so approximately 14 small shots will equal 14 units
Remember: It is advised to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week spread over 3 or more days.
Alcohol and Gut Health
In excess, alcohol can reduce the ability of the gut to digest and absorb nutrients. It can also lead to inflammation and reduce the amount of good bacteria within the gut.5,6
Here are some tips to help support your gut health when choosing to drink:
- Try to hydrate with water between alcoholic drinks
- Ensure you have a nourishing meal before drinking, and avoid drinking on an empty stomach
- The day after drinking, opt for foods that are nourishing and that support your gut health
Our Love Your Gut general lifestyle tips from Dr Maxton Pitcher can be found here.
Alcohol does not only affect the person who is drinking, but also those around them. Especially as the world is battling COVID-19, the restrictions can take a toll on your mental health and also your alcohol consumption. If this is the case, it is okay to seek help.
Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline and you can call this helpline for free in complete confidence if you are worried about your drinking, or someone else’s: 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am to 8pm, weekends 11am to 4pm).
For further information and additional resources:
- McManus et al. (2009) Adult Psychiatric Morbidity in England – 2007, Results of a household survey. Available at: Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey (Accessed October 2020).
- Public Health England (2020) COVID-19: mental health and wellbeing surveillance report. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-mental-health-and-wellbeing-surveillance-report (Accessed October 2020).
- Drinkware (2020) What is an alcohol unit? Available at: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/facts/alcoholic-drinks-and-units/what-is-an-alcohol-unit (Accessed October 2020).
- NHS (2018) Alcohol Units. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/calculating-alcohol-units/ (Accessed October 2020).
- Rajendram et al. (2005) Digestive Diseases 23:214–221.
- Leclercq et al. (2014) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 111(42):E4485-E4493.