New research from alcohol education charity Drinkaware shows that almost three in five (58%) of all people (aged 18 to 75) who drink alcohol are doing so to help them cope with the pressures of everyday life.
According to the new Drinkaware / YouGov survey, which looks at adult drinking patterns in the UK, 38% of men and women who said they had drunk alcohol in the last year had done so at least some of the time to forget their problems. Some 47% said they had done so to cheer themselves up when in a bad mood.
Forty-one per cent said that 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.
The data also reveal that this trend is roughly equal for both men and women, and is seen across all age ranges to varying degrees. However, people in lower social grades, who are more likely to be experiencing financial and housing worries, are drinking to forget their problems or when they are depressed or nervous, at a statistically significant higher rate.
Licensees are being encouraged to be more aware of their own use of alcohol when dealing with everyday stresses, both at work and in their personal life, as well as that of their employees. The charity’s Drinkaware at Work programme of training and e-learning about alcohol could be a useful tool for operators who want to support employees who may be drinking too much.
Drinkaware chief executive, Elaine Hindal, said: “January can be a difficult time of year for many people and families up and down the country, when day-to-day concerns about finances and debt come sharply into focus.
“What this thought-provoking survey shows is that a worrying number of people are drinking alcohol to help them cope with the pressures of day-to-day life.
Depression and anxiety
“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 added: “The number of people who are drinking when they are already feeling depressed or nervous, and at levels which are harmful to both their physical and mental health, is also deeply concerning.
“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.
“Regularly drinking heavily may affect your relationship with your partner, family and friends, or impact on your performance at work, making life feel difficult and depressing. And after a hard day, it can be easy to believe that having a drink will help.”