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Talking to older people about alcohol and risk

02 February 2024
Volume 29 · Issue 2

Regular use of alcohol is a key risk factor that has a significant impact on a range of health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, cancers and diabetes (Department of Health and Social Care, 2023). Alcohol-related harm is now recognised as a significant risk to the public's health and the WHO has advised that no level of alcohol consumption is safe for health (WHO, 2023). The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies alcohol in its highest risk group of carcinogens and it sits alongside asbestos, radiation and tobacco (2020). Increasing alcohol intake increases the risk of harm to health.

The Chief Medical Officer has published risk guidelines on drinking alcohol in order to help inform individuals about risks associated with alcohol intake (Department of Health, 2016). Knowing how much is too much can be confusing. The majority of adults in the UK still do not know what the UK Low Risk Drinking Guidelines are (Drinkaware, 2023). Alcohol measures are usually counted as units, and 6 pints of lager or 1.5 bottles of wine equates to 14 units. The guidance applies to men and women that drink alcohol regularly and recommends that individuals should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol weekly in order to reduce the risk of alcohol-related harm to health. This amount is preferably spread throughout 3 days or more, keeping some days of the week alcohol free. At 14 units a week, the risk of dying from an alcohol-related condition is around 1 in 100. New draft clinical guidelines for alcohol treatment categorises regular drinkers of 14 units or less each week as moderate or controlled drinkers (Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, 2023).

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