This year’s Alcohol Awareness Week takes place from 15-21 November 2021 and the theme is ‘Alcohol and relationships’.

The link between alcohol and relationships is close, with many people associating alcohol with socialising.  Alcohol can become a large part of our connections and interactions with others, but when our own or a loved one’s drinking habits start to adversely affect our relationships, it can have a massive impact on our lives.

 

The strong link between alcohol and relationships

 

Drinking too much and too often can cause or worsen all sorts of problems with a person’s physical and mental health, including damaging relationships with loved ones.  It can heighten family tensions, get in the way of clear communication, and mean people are less present for each other, including their children.

For some people, alcohol can become a central aspect of their relationships with friends, family or partners.  This can stop them from taking action to improve their drinking habits, even when those habits aren’t working for them.  If a loved one is drinking heavily, it can be very worrying.  There is also a real risk of someone’s drinking causing serious conflict, with alcohol being a factor in many cases of child neglect and domestic abuse.

Alcohol is also strongly associated with mental health problems like anxiety and depression.  Over the course of the pandemic these problems have undoubtedly got worse for many people.  As people return to a more normal life, there will be new pressures too – pressures to drink, sober shaming where being made to feel not drinking is wrong, and the pressures people put on themselves to get back to ‘normal’ socialising.

 

Alcohol and the workplace

 

Our relationships don’t just include our personal lives, but our working lives as well.

You may not think that alcohol and the workplace have much of a link, but Alcohol Change UK revealed that lost productivity due to alcohol use costs the UK economy more than £7 billion annually, and an estimated 167,000 working years are lost to alcohol every year.

Some people show up to work hungover, or may still be intoxicated from the night before. They may even consume alcohol before work or during their working day. There may be high level of sickness from alcohol related illnesses. Alcohol Change UK share a few examples:

  • 40% of employers mention alcohol as a significant cause of low productivity
  • Between 3% and 5% of all work absence is caused by alcohol consumption
  • 35% of people say they’ve noticed colleagues under the influence of drugs and alcohol at work
  • 25% say that drugs or alcohol have affected them at work, with 23% saying they had experienced decreased productivity as a result

 

It might be the case that workplace stress is heightening the problem, with 27% of people saying that workplace stress makes them drink more.

 

Take Control of What you Drink

 

Take control of what you drink to see better, happier relationships, as well as improved health and wellbeing.

In the UK it is recommended that adults do not regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week (Source: Drink Aware). If you are not sure how much you drink each week you can use the Alcohol Change Unit Calculator.

You can also record what you drink for a few weeks to help you understand your drinking pattern, then set yourself small achievable goals to get it back under control.   Use the free app – search Try Dry – to help keep on track and set goals to cut down.

If you do regularly drink more than 14 units a week (fourteen units is equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine) then the NHS website has some great tips on cutting down. You can also find information  about the risks to drinking too much alcohol, as well as where to get support to help you cut down how much you are drinking.

You can also try the Drink Free Days website which will assess how much you are drinking each week and tell you how many units you could cut out and how much money you could save just by making small changes to your drinking habits.