Pouring a glass of wine after a long day or heading to the pub is a common habit, but a revealing new study has shown almost three in five (58%) of us are turning to alcohol to cope with everyday life.
The Drinkaware/YouGov survey, which looks at adult drinking patterns in the UK, also reveals 38% of men and women who had drunk alcohol in the last year had done so to forget their problems at least some of the time.
What’s more, almost half (47%) said they had done so to cheer themselves up when in a bad mood. As many as 41% said they had drunk alcohol because it helps when they feel depressed or nervous, with 54% of these people having done so at increasing levels of risk.
Joanna Rog, 22, who lives, studies and works in London said: “Life can often be incredibly stressful for me as I do my best to juggle the demands of living, working and studying in a big city.
“There are some weeks when I drink every day just to keep myself going. I know that it’s not great but there is a release in doing that which helps me to temporarily forget my problems and worries.”
The data, which polled more than 6,000 people, reveals that this trend is similar among men and women, and across age groups. However, those in lower social grades are drinking to forget their problems or when they are depressed or nervous, at a significantly higher rate.
Rog added: “Whilst I take some comfort from the fact that I am not the only one who feels this way, that in itself is really worrying.
“Too many people are hitting the bottle when things get rough and we all need to start thinking why we do this and look for other ways of coping with our day to day pressures.”
The UK Chief Medical Officers’ advise it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. That’s one-and-a-half bottles of low-alcohol wine (11% ABV), one-and-a-third bottles of high-alcohol wine (14% ABV) and six to eight cans of lager (depending on alcohol strength).
Commenting on the findings, Drinkaware Chief Executive Elaine Hindal warned of the long-term impact of drinking alcohol to relieve stress on our health and wellbeing.
“Whilst people might think having a drink after a hard day can help them relax, in the long run it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety and make stress harder to deal with. This is because regular, heavy drinking interferes with the neurotransmitters in our brains that are needed for good mental health,” she said in a statement.
“Regular drinking lowers levels of serotonin – the brain chemical that helps to regulate moods. This is one factor leading to symptoms of depression if people drink heavily and regularly. In addition, alcohol and depression can feed off each other to create a vicious cycle.”
The impact of excess drinking can impact other areas of our lives such as our relationships and performance at work.
“Twenty first century living can be hard but using alcohol to help cope with its pressures, particularly for people who already struggling, for whatever reason, to keep their heads above water is not the solution.
“Finding ways of cutting back and of moderating alcohol consumption are simple changes that can have a significant impact on the quality of people’s lives. ”