More than half of Londoners who drink alcohol have, or do, ‘drink to get drunk’, according to a new poll – the results of which were reported on by the City’s dedicated news platform, City Matters
The survey shows the extent to which alcohol is consumed to excess – and the widespread disregard of its effects on physical, and mental, health.
The finding is even more worrying because, as the police have pointed out, people who are inebriated are unable to ‘socially distance’ whether they are ‘happy’ or ‘angry’ as a result of their drinking. Drinking heavily also weakens immunity and thus reduces the ability to cope with infectious diseases such as Covid-19.
According to the survey of more than 1,000 adults, conducted by the Priory Group, the addiction and mental health specialists, 58% of those in London say they drink to get drunk – the highest result for regions polled, and above the national average, which is still high at 40%.
For other large cities such as Birmingham and Manchester, the response rates were slightly lower, but still over half, 51% for Birmingham and 52% for Manchester.
Londoners were also among the highest to feel more comfortable in a social situation only if alcohol was involved – with 59% mentioning this.
This was higher than in the North East (51%), and the North West (54%).
Yet image-conscious Londoners are concerned with the way they look, specifically their weight: 61% of those from London said they would cut down on drinking if they knew the calorie content of the drink (vs the national average of 48%).
Priory consultant psychiatrist Dr Niall Campbell, a leading UK addiction expert based at the Priory Hospital in Roehampton, south-west London, said; “Drinking to get drunk is dangerous, and cannot be a worse strategy. It can quickly become habitual, and as drink is a depressant, it will have an effect on your mental as well as physical health. I see it all the time in my patients.
“Alcohol has effects, both short-term and long-term, on almost every single organ of your body and even in small quantities is known to cause certain types of cancer. Drinking, especially heavily, weakens the immune system and therefore reduces your ability to cope with infectious diseases, including Covid-19.”
Dr Campbell added: “While some are now going to bars and pubs to drink, many people are working from home or ‘drinking from home’ as one lawyer put it, and some are slipping into habits of drinking earlier to cope with the stress of lockdown, job insecurity, and concerns about a global recession.
The ‘look yourself in the mirror’ moment
Dr Campbell said: “I see lives devastated by alcohol. You need to look honestly at your weekly alcohol consumption. Keep a drink diary if you don’t know. Familiarise yourself with what a ‘unit’ consists of and what the alcohol unit guidelines are (no more than 14 units a week). It’s not as simple as one drink, one unit. Large wine glasses hold 250ml, which is nearly three units or more in a single glass. Likewise, one pint of strong lager can contain more than three units of alcohol. A 750ml bottle of red, white or rosé wine contains around 10 units. By knowing what you consume, you can make the decision to stop.
I often see people whose drinking levels have crept up on them over several years and who use alcohol to cope with unreasonable work pressures, or life crises such as divorce or bereavement. But drinking is not a coping strategy.
What’s your real motivation for stopping?
Assess alcohol’s true toll on your physical, mental and emotional health. Remind yourself of your worst or most embarrassing hangover. Do you constantly feel lethargic and foggy-headed at work? Do you lose days to hangovers? Do you find it hard to kick-start yourself in the mornings? Thinking about these things will help you decide you really want to change, because the benefits of giving up alcohol are manifold. Now is a good time to give up alcohol. The present situation is a unique opportunity to quit drinking, or at least to cut down considerably, as various social events aren’t possible.
Instead of alcohol?
Low alcohol beer is ok although it can give you a taste for the real stuff. But think of this period of the year as a detox and you might want to give up caffeine at the same time. Get in the habit of drinking at least five glasses of water each day as your body desperately needs water for almost everything it does. Fruit juices are better than caffeinated, artificially sweetened soft drinks.
Think of losing weight
Quitting alcohol is a huge incentive to losing weight and looking better, because there are lots of hidden calories in alcohol. According to a YouGov survey, the average wine drinker in England takes in around 2,000 calories from alcohol every month. Drinking five pints of lager a week adds up to 44,200 calories over a year, which is equivalent to eating 221 doughnuts.
So – those other, long-term benefits…
Skin can become was puffy and blotchy as a result of drinking – but this can be reversed. In simple terms, alcohol is toxic to your skin and these toxins make your skin less elastic which can be very ageing. But there are many other benefits to giving up alcohol; your blood sugar will normalise, you will feel much more clear-headed, less depressed and your sleep patterns are likely to improve within a week. Your liver will begin to repair itself in as little as two months. Many people report that their mood or outlook on life seems better. Reducing your weight also brings a lot of other benefits.
You help to reduce further your risk of developing Type II diabetes and you lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
New figures are also showing us that accumulated drinking over a lifetime is taking its toll. Older people are increasingly dying from alcohol abuse as decades of drinking take their toll on the baby-boomer generation. Surely that’s a wake-up call for us all.