Alcohol has many potential impacts on our health and wellbeing. The Drinkaware Annual Barometer asked Irish adults to rate their awareness of alcohol related harms. The harms were listed as prompts and people were asked to rate whether they were aware of the harms or not.
In general women are more aware of the health impacts that can result from binge/risky drinking. The only health harm that men were notably more aware of was reduced sports performance.
People need to know what the potential health impacts alcohol can cause. For many, it can take years for symptoms to occur, so changes people make today can impact their health in later life. 1 in 4 Irish adults report that they typically binge drink when they drink.
Binge drinking is defined as consuming six or more standard drinks in one sitting, but what does this mean? Binge drinking is when you drink faster than your liver’s ability to process alcohol. This means that your liver’s ability to process alcohol and complete its other vital functions are negatively affected. We recently launched our new Standard Drinks Calculator to give an estimate of how many standard drinks are in your drink of choice. Why not use it next time to go to the shop or when you are out?
Alcohol has several short and long-term health harms. Some short-term health harm effects include:
- Anxiety: Alcohol is a depressant that disrupts how the brain functions and affects our thoughts, feelings and actions. The morning after drinking alcohol, you may notice you’re feeling down or anxious.
- Dehydration: Alcohol reduces your kidney’s ability to function properly.
- Disturbed Sleep: Alcohol is a sedative that disrupts the sleep/wake cycle (our internal 24-hour clock) and suppresses melatonin which regulates the sleep cycle.
- Injuries & Accidents: Alcohol use can increase your risk of experiencing or causing accidents (including car accidents), falls and burns. People who binge drink are more likely to experience or cause accidents, injuries or violence.
Reduced Sports Performance: It is advised against working out if you are experiencing the effects of drinking alcohol the following day as alcohol is a sedative that can delay your reactions and response times.
- Impaired Judgement: When you drink alcohol, you can feel more relaxed and can lower your inhibitions. This might cause you to do things you wouldn’t consider if you were sober because your ability to make safe decisions is reduced
Learn more about the short-term effects of alcohol.
Some long-term health harm effects include:
- Cancer: Alcohol is a modifiable risk factor for at least seven types of cancer – bowel, breast, liver, mouth, voice box (larynx), oesophagus (food pipe) and throat (pharynx). Bowel and breast cancers are among the most common in Ireland. Even a few of drinks a day can cause an increased risk of some of these cancers.
- Depression: Alcohol is a depressant. Drinking can contribute to depression due to the various psychological eﬀects of alcohol and impacts on mental health. Alcohol affects the levels chemicals in our brain.
- Heart Disease & Stroke: Regularly drinking more than the low-risk guidelines raises your blood pressure. This means that your heart must work harder to pump blood around the body. High blood pressure is the leading cause of heart attack and stroke in Ireland. Read more about alcohol and heart health
- Liver Disease: One of the roles of the liver is to get rid of toxins from the body. This means that drinking alcohol puts extra pressure on the liver. The by-product of alcohol are toxins that can damage the liver.
Learn more about the long-term effects of alcohol.
There are so many wonderful benefits to drinking less alcohol. If you are thinking of cutting down/out, why not check out our mindful drinking page. Having a more mindful approach to your drinking habits will all you to feel more mental and physical benefits.
- Improved Mental Health: When you take a break from alcohol, you’ll most likely notice that your mood improves, and you may feel more positive overall.
- Better Long–Term Physical Health: In the short-term cutting down on alcohol has all kinds of benefits like lower blood sugar, weight loss and fewer associated negative consequences like a headache or heartburn.
- Healthier Appearance: If you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight or lose a few pounds, cutting back on alcohol can help. Alcohol has almost the same calories per gram as pure fat and depending on the type, the sugar content can be high.
Your skin should appear healthier for a few different reasons
- Better Sleep & More Energy: One of the first things you’ll notice when you drink less or take a break from alcohol is how much better you’re sleeping. You’ll wake up feeling refreshed and with full of energy to take on the day ahead.
- Save Money: So often, people don’t consider how much money they are spending on alcohol. Use our online drinks calculator to estimate how much money, you spend on alcohol during an average week.