Author: OnMedica staff
More than half (55%) of people in England who drink alcohol wrongly believe that alcohol only damages your health if you regularly get drunk or binge drink, a poll by YouGov has shown.
YouGov questioned more than 2,000 adults and found that 83% of those who regularly drink more than the NHS recommended limits – 2-3 units a day for women and 3-4 units a day for men – don’t realise that their drinking is risking their long-term health.
An estimated 10 million adults in England are drinking above the recommended limits, so about 8.3 million people are potentially unaware of the damage their drinking could be causing.
Although 86% of drinkers surveyed said they knew that drinking alcohol is related to liver disease, far fewer realised it is also linked with breast cancer (7%), throat cancer (25%), mouth cancer (28%), stroke (37%) and heart disease (56%), along with other serious conditions.
The government has funded a £6 million campaign, backed by charities Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and the Stroke Association, to warn drinkers of the unseen health damage caused by regularly drinking more than the NHS advises. Billboard, press and TV adverts will show drinkers the damage that is being done to their organs while they are drinking, whether in a pub or at home.
More than 9,000 people in the UK die from alcohol-related causes each year. The World Health Organisation estimates that 20% of alcohol-related deaths are from cancer, 15% are from cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease and stroke, and 13% are from liver disease.
Research shows that a man regularly drinking more than two pints of strong lager a day could be three times more likely to have a stroke and three times more likely to get mouth cancer. A woman regularly drinking two large glasses of wine or more a day is 50% more likely to get breast cancer and twice as likely to have high blood pressure, which could lead to a stroke or a heart attack.
Joe Korner, director of communications for The Stroke Association, said: “We are pleased to be involved in this campaign because it alerts people to the long-term health risks of regular heavy drinking.
“Stroke is the biggest cause of severe adult disability and hits 150,000 people a year. So, it’s vital that people understand that women who persistently drink more than three units of alcohol a day and men who drink more then four, are more likely to get high blood pressure, the single biggest risk factor for stroke.“
Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “While sensible drinking in moderation has been shown to offer some protection against heart disease, this should not be seen as a green light to start drinking.
“There are better ways to protect yourself from heart disease. The evidence is clear, regularly drinking above the recommended daily limits harms the heart as well as causing a host of other harmful effects.”
The campaign website, www.nhs.uk/drinking, launches on Monday 1 February and will feature interactive tools to arm people with the information they need to make healthier choices.