Before you hit up a beer garden or mix yourself a cocktail this bank holiday weekend, we’ve got some news that may stop you in your tracks.
No amount of alcohol is safe to consume, according to a large-scale global study of 28 million people in 195 countries.
The study, published in The Lancet, suggests any health benefits of alcohol are outweighed by its adverse effects on other aspects of health, particularly cancers. Basically, we should avoid it altogether.
The research also found British women are among the heaviest female drinkers in the world, coming in eighth position, averaging around 30g of alcohol per day. British men drink a similar amount, but this puts them in 62nd position compared to other men globally.
The study used data from 694 studies to estimate how common drinking alcohol is worldwide, then used a further 592 studies to analyse the health risks associated with alcohol. In the research, a standard alcoholic drink was defined as 10g alcohol.
Globally, one in three people (32.5%) drink alcohol - equivalent to 2.4 billion people - including 25% of women (0.9 billion women) and 39% of men (1.5 billion men). On average, each day women consume 0.73 alcoholic drinks, while men drink 1.7 drinks, according to the findings.
While Brits are fairly boozy, the highest number of current alcohol drinkers were in Denmark (95.3% of women and 97.1% of men) while the lowest were in Pakistan for men (0.8%) and Bangladesh for women (0.3%). Men in Romania and women in Ukraine drank the most, at 8.2 and 4.2 drinks per day respectively.
But our love of a G&T (or two) is having a negative impact on our health. Drinking alcohol was found to be the seventh leading risk factor for premature death and disease in 2016, accounting for 2.2% of deaths in women and 6.8% of deaths in men overall, largely from alcohol-related cancers.
However, when looking specifically at people aged 15-49 years old, alcohol was the leading risk factor in 2016, with 3.8% of deaths in women and 12.2% of deaths in men attributable to alcohol, with causes including car accidents and other injury.
The researchers estimated that in people aged 15-95 years, drinking one alcoholic drink per day for one year increases the risk of developing one of the 23 alcohol-related health problems by 0.5%, compared with not drinking at all.
“Although the health risks associated with alcohol starts off being small with one drink a day, they then rise rapidly as people drink more,” lead author Dr Max Griswold, from the University of Washington, commented.
Dr Robyn Burton, of King’s College London, added: “The conclusions of the study are clear and unambiguous – alcohol is a colossal global health issue and small reductions in health-related harms at low levels of alcohol intake are outweighed by the increased risk of other health-related harms, including cancer.
“There is strong support here for the guideline published by the Chief Medical Officer of the UK who found that there is ‘no safe level of alcohol consumption.’”