Health Hub

Having a Dry July has great health benefits. We've brought together a collection of articles that could help you with your Dry July.

Why young people are drinking less – and what older drinkers can learn from them

By Dominic Conroy on

Young people are drinking less than ever before. Some reading this will be able to recall the 1990s – the decade of peak alcohol, when drinking was a key part of life for young people. The decade saw the rise of pub and club culture, public displays of drunkenness by young adults and the arrival of new kinds of alcoholic drinks you could buy (alcopops anyone?).

Flash forward to 2020 and the picture is very different. A range of studies from countries where drinking is a big part of the culture confirms a sharp decline in alcohol consumption among young people. Research in Sweden, for example, shows a decline across all types of consumption, from the heaviest to the lightest drinkers. Similarly, rates of binge drinking have gone down and people defining themselves as non-drinkers has increased.

There may be significant health benefits to this change in behaviour. Excessive alcohol consumption is the cause of a number of chronic diseases and bad drinking habits are often created between the ages of 16 and 25. So there’s lots to be learnt from the young people who typify how drinking culture appears to be changing.

There are many reasons for the change, which I have recently brought together in a new book with my colleague Fiona Measham. Economic factors, including a wider climate of constraint and austerity, may impinge the time and money young people have available to spend on alcohol. Young people may also be more aware of alcohol’s health risks.

But changes in drinking behaviour may be just one part of broader changes in today’s super-connected youth culture. For example, online technology has made friends and family now instantly accessible via social media and smartphones, and the once central role of pubs and clubs for initiating and consolidating social networks appears to have changed.

The decline could also simply be a redressing of the balance that began with the surge in alcohol’s popularity during the 1990s. It is unclear what the definitive reason is for the change that has taken place. But there is still plenty to learn from these changes in terms of how to encourage others to adopt healthier drinking patterns.

Pros and cons of not drinking

Choosing not to drink alcohol can have implications for people’s social lives. I carried out a study, surveying 500 UK university students who were alcohol drinkers but who were asked about whether they had recently not drank alcohol on social occasions where their peers were drinking.

Nearly half (44%) of the students reported having socialised without drinking alcohol, and reported benefits including higher self-esteem and feeling more productive in life. The main downsides were concerns that not drinking might limit their social lives and fear of missing out. The high proportion of students who had abstained from social drinking in the previous week while in the company of alcohol-consuming friends suggests that going dry while socialising may be more widespread among young adults who do regularly consume alcohol than is typically acknowledged in popular culture.

Not drinking has gained cultural visibility in recent years with the rise of phenomena like Dry January. But questions circle around these initiatives. There is currently limited evidence that these events translate into longer-term moderate drinking and whether or not they target those in the most need of curbing their alcohol consumption is also open to question. So it seems we’re still some way off harnessing non-drinking as a way to promote moderate alcohol consumption over a sustained period.

Beating the stigma

One of the biggest roadblocks to encouraging young people to drink less is the stigma there still is around not drinking or even drinking in moderation. Many studies point to this, particularly among students. In one study I worked on, interviewees have spoken of experiencing peer pressure to drink, and if they don’t drink alcohol feeling like they “don’t belong” or even excluded.

Another study suggests that male non-drinkers may face a double whammy of stigma. Their decision to not drink clashes with expectations of being both a young person (where drinking to excess demonstrates “living life to the full”) and gender role specific expectations (being told: “Why are you not having a drink? Man up!”). 

Nonetheless, we can expect to see a growth in tolerance toward different drinking behaviour, as more people decide to drink less. This may unlock all sorts of possibilities when it comes to promoting moderate drinking across the population at large. The rise in interest in drink-free challenges, for example, and healthier lifestyles more generally, suggests the cultural climate is ripe for putting non-drinking centre stage in public health promotion materials. 

Also, the emergence of “sober spaces” in young adult social environments is significant. For example, the rise of cafe culture, increased demand for living accommodation where alcohol use is prohibited and activities like sober raves and the “conscious clubbing” movement. Pubs and clubs are no longer the go-to space for people to socialise, thanks to diverse cultural factors including increased numbers of young people who do not drink and the increased acceptability of non-drinking as a social option. 

Understanding these changes is an ongoing process. But shifts in how alcohol is viewed by young adults shows that excessive drinking doesn’t have to be the default way of socialising and perhaps we can all have a healthier relationship with booze.

Written by Dominic Conroy via The Conversation. Read the original article

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Tips on cutting down after Dry July

By Dry July Foundation on

Carry on your good work from July through to August and beyond. Here are some practical tips if you want to try to cut down on the amount of alcohol you’re drinking:

  • Before you start drinking, quench your thirst with a non-alcoholic drink
  • Drink slowly – have a drink of water with your alcoholic drink
  • Make every second drink non-alcoholic – this will help space out your drinks.
  • Eat food when you’re drinking, but avoid salty foods – these make you thirstier.
  • Try to dilute your alcoholic drinks – for example, a shandy (beer with lemonade) or a wine spritzer (wine with mineral water).
  • Designate at least two alcohol-free days a week
  • Know your standard drinks – buy an alcohol measure for at home

  • One standard drink equals:
  • 285 ml of beer (one...
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How To Get A Good Night Sleep

By Melissa Ingram on

Every single one of us needs to simply stop and recharge – regularly! Most of us have experienced times where stress is high, deadlines are tight and yet we still seem to be able to move mountains. On the flip side, I can guarantee that all of us have also experienced periods of the same pressure yet feel we are not firing on all cylinders – resulting in lower quality of work being produced or it taking longer to complete.

Allow your body enough time each night to recharge. Start with attempting to get 7 – 8 hours of quality sleep every night. We are all different with regards to the amount of sleep we require to operate optimally, however the average 7 – 8 hours is a great place to start. While we sleep we unplug from our lives and...

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What Happens To Your Body When You Give Up Alcohol For One Month

By Chloe Mcleod on

We all love to indulge in alcohol every now and then, but a night out with friends brings social pressures in regards to frequent drinking. It can feel impossible to dodge having a drink when you want to be part of the group vibe - and before you know it, you’re waking up with a dry mouth and a nasty hangover again.

Dry July is a great way to reassess your relationship with alcohol consumption and see the health benefits of taking a month off. By signing up to raise money, you’ll also be helping people with cancer.

Here are a few ways the human body can benefit from abstaining from alcohol for a whole month.

#1 Improvements to mental health

Alcohol may seem like a mood elevator when you’re dancing and having a great time with your friends,...

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