Christmas not always the most wonderful time of the year when it comes to alcohol
Christmas can be hard for people who have experienced alcohol problems. That’s the warning with the seasonal advertising and social media blitz and stockpiling of bottles in supermarkets underway.
This time of year is marked by a peak in alcohol advertising and for many an increase in drinking with parties and pressures to drink. But the figures show the advertising free-for-all encouraging people to “drink responsibly” is helping to fuel the problem:
- In England it is estimated there may be as many as 602,000 dependent drinkers
- Over 4/10 people in the North East are drinking above weekly recommended guidelines to stay low risk, putting health at risk
- In 2021 there were almost 980,000 estimated admissions where the primary reason for hospital admission or a secondary diagnosis was linked to alcohol, which was 4% higher than 2018/19. That included:
- 435,000 admissions for cardiovascular disease
- 227,000 mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol
- 93,000 admissions for cancer
- 28,000 admissions for the toxic effects of alcohol.
Susan Taylor, Head of Alcohol Policy at Fresh and Balance, said: “When it comes to Christmas people not only feel under pressure to drink but are bombarded by advertising and alcohol offers. Alcohol is a group one carcinogen causing seven types of cancer including breast and bowel cancer and yet we are urged to “drink responsibly”.
“Most of us know someone who is struggling with alcohol or too ashamed to admit it or ask for help. But we have alcohol brands and supermarkets telling us to drink, cheap alcohol priced to shift in large quantities and very few warnings on labels. It is a complete free-for-all which is driving ill health.”
She added: “It is important that we let friends make their own choices if they don’t want a drink. As well as people who are cutting back for health reasons, more young people are choosing not to drink and there are many who don’t drink for religious, cultural or financial reasons – or simply because they don’t want to feel the hangovers and anxiety that can come with drinking.”
The Institute of Alcohol Studies reports that there is an increase in alcohol advertising on TV at this time of year with a particularly high amount of alcohol content in supermarket ads. It found one advert from Tesco showed alcohol content 13 times in a 90-second advert. However, it had concluded that some ads such as Lidl contain no bottles in sight. Read their report https://www.ias.org.uk/2023/12/05/mistletoe-and-wine-alcohol-advertising-at-christmas-time/
Karen Slater, 55, is a Newcastle mum of four. She experienced alcohol harm first-hand when she grew up around alcohol in a hostile and dangerous environment. She was a victim of child abuse and domestic violence and sought solace in alcohol, drugs and self-harm. Karen recalls living in a deprived area, feeling isolated and alone, and believing that alcohol was the solution.
Karen said: “I already feel bombarded by the adverts of alcohol that come into my home and give out the message that alcohol is pleasurable and that it brings families together for the Christmas festivities. You can’t move around a supermarket for piles and piles of alcohol.
“But alcohol advertising is insidious. It comes on the TV and looks really glamorous with the pink drinks – but it is a drug that can be addictive. There are millions of people trying to battle alcohol and yet we are watching it on TV. Every night there are adverts, and as soon as you’ve seen that advert you think about it. For someone having a bad day or a bad moment that could trigger a relapse.”
She added: “My reality and thousands of others is the exact opposite. If you’ve experienced alcohol problems, Christmas in the real world away from the alluring adverts of alcohol can be one of drink-fuelled isolation, domestic violence, child neglect and A&E being overrun by drunken people.
“People who are alcohol dependent live lives constantly like this. The adverts never show that struggle and I feel they shouldn’t be allowed to come into my home when I’ve never gave permission. My home is my haven. I’m in recovery. “