The festive season and the rise of excessive drinking

The festive season is near approaching and for most of us, this means overindulging in cake, chocolate and copious amounts of roast dinner. However, for some, this time of the year can also be the start of a rapid increase in excessive alcohol consumption.

With the promotion of mulled wine and hot ciders almost everywhere we turn, it is unsurprising that over the Christmas period, we increase our alcohol consumption by over 40% on average1.

Over Christmas, a large part of the festivities is being sociable with our friends and family, and with this often comes alcohol. The social side of alcohol consumption is one of the main reasons why many find it difficult to stop, but this doesn’t come without its consequences.

Despite the social benefits that many of us perceive alcohol to have, excessive consumption can cause an extensive list of health conditions, including high blood pressure and liver failure. However, despite these risks, alcohol consumption is heavily encouraged by the media and peers during the Christmas period. But what many people do not realise, is that it is not just long-term consumption that damages our health, short-term drinking can also have detrimental effects. Studies have found that alcoholic binge drinking, even just over the Christmas season, can rapidly increase our risk of alcohol dependence2.

Not only does excessive drinking present a danger to our own health, it also jeopardises the health of others through our errored judgements. In 2017, 8,600 people were either killed or injured in a road collision where the driver was over the drinking limit3

This isn’t to say you should never drink alcohol and most of us will still enjoy a few drinks over the Christmas season. However, what we need to understand is how to know when is too much and how to keep ourselves and others safe when drinking.

So, how do we do this?

With the social aspect of drinking being a key reason why many people take part in it, finding alternatives is essential. Lower percentage drinks and non-alcoholic drinks are widely available and still as sociable as other drinks but the negative consequences will be much less.

Another thing we need to bear in mind is knowing how much is too much. According to the NHS guidelines, we should be drinking 2-3 units a day for women and 3-4 units a day for men4. Knowing these limits will allow us to still safely have a drink but will limit the health problems that may arise from drinking in excess.

Reducing our intake and making sure we are looking out for our friends and family will hopefully reduce the negative impact of excessive alcohol consumption on our own and other’s safety. Alcohol consumption over the festive season may only be excessive for a week or a month, but the consequences on our health are far longer lasting.