Thursday, 18 June 2020

Should we be reducing our alcohol consumption?

It's the 3rd Thursday of the month again, the day on which we should be at Falmouth's Chain Locker pub enjoying a few drinks with mining friends from Cornwall and visitors from around the world. But not to be of course, and I, like many others, will be partaking in a glass or two of wine at home until the pandemic is over.
As pubs and restaurants have shut, there has been an increase in alcohol purchases in shops; sales have risen by more than 30% in off-licenses and one-in-five people are believed to be drinking more often, which is not too surprising. And it would appear that those in the mining industry drink more than most, which is also not that surprising.
Source @CruxInvestor
If lockdown has not been bad enough, the prophets of gloom have been reminding us of the pitfalls of the demon drink and the report of a couple of years ago that there is no safe limit to alcohol consumption. The current UK guidelines advise limiting alcohol intake to 14 units per week, equivalent to drinking no more than 7 medium-sized glasses of wine, but I have never been able to find any scientific evidence for this, believing maybe that these are just figures plucked from the air. 
Should we frown on those who enjoy an occasional glass of wine?
However, an article in The Lancet in August 2018, in which the Global Burden of Disease study looked at levels of alcohol use and its health effects in 195 countries between 1990 and 2016, was the first major, and massive, study on the effect of alcohol on premature death, cancer, and cardiovascular problems. The huge team of collaborators compared people who did not drink at all with those who had one or more alcoholic drinks per day.
The media, including the BBC National News, immediately reported the findings with the scary headline that drinking half a bottle of wine a day increases your risk of contracting an alcohol related illness, or injury, by up to 40%, worrying to say the least as this was my (roughly) daily alcohol consumption, which might have increased slightly over the past few months.
As The Lancet is a reputable Elsevier journal, and the article had obviously been rigorously peer-reviewed, I had no doubts about the research, but maybe the media were exaggerating the statistics, so I had a good look at the manuscript.
A massive population was surveyed and the researchers found that out of 100,000 non-drinkers, 914 would develop an alcohol-related health problem such as cancer, heart disease, or suffer an injury. But an extra four people would be affected if they drank one alcoholic drink a day. For people who had two alcoholic drinks a day, 63 more developed a condition within a year and for those who consumed five drinks every day, there was an increase of 338 people who developed a health problem. One alcoholic drink was defined as the equivalent of a 100ml glass of red wine.
One of the study authors, Prof Sonia Saxena, a researcher at Imperial College London and a practising GP, said: "One drink a day does represent a small increased risk, but adjust that to the UK population as a whole and it represents a far bigger number, and most people are not drinking just one drink a day." "The health risks associated with alcohol are massive," said Dr. Emmanuela Gakidou of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and the senior author of the study. "Our findings are consistent with other recent research, which found clear and convincing correlations between drinking and health, and that zero alcohol consumption minimizes the overall risk of health loss."
These figures are obviously of great significance to a national health service, but how worried should you be as an individual? Everything we do in life involves a risk and enjoying a few glasses of wine or beer is just another risk.  The research shows that if I did not drink at all, I would statistically have a 0.9 chance in a 100 of cancer, cardiovascular problems etc, which would increase to 1.3 in 100 by drinking just over a half bottle of wine per day, an increase in around 40%, as reported in the media.
These odds would seem an acceptable risk for many but what do you think? Do we have a moral obligation to reduce our alcohol intake? Do you feel that alcohol enhances our overall quality of life, or would we be better without it? Should we at MEI conferences curb our policy of letting the wine flow freely at sundowners and dinners, where delegates relax at the end of a long day?
A controversial topic, I know what my views are, but what are yours?

12 comments:

  1. Maybe its time to look at the mental health issues of working long term in the mining industry?

    Is it a cause of the drinking?

    Just a thought?

    David

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    1. I completely agree. Excessive drinking normally has a reason behind it.

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  2. Anything more than moderation is not good for health.Some say that red wine is good for heart. However, this information in the Blog is of interest--

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  3. Hi Barry, The Battersby family motto - "Omnia debet moderate". What is the Wills family motto? Regards Mike

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  4. Which language is this--hope not a secret code

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    1. Bad schoolboy Latin. Should be vinum!

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  5. I've also noticed that most social/networking events in the mining industry revolve around drinking. Why is that? I don't mind it but have noted that friends and colleagues who don't drink can find these events tricky to navigate. Perhaps we should offer more options- different settings (i.e. not always the pub) and alcohol free beverages?

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  6. Hello unknown. Of course social events include drinks, but don't "revolve around drinking". All the conferences we attend, including MEI conferences, supply non-alcoholic as well as alcoholic drinks, and pubs, of course, do the same. It would be difficult to organise social events without food and drinks. If you get back, please leave your name

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  7. I always found that an informal meet after a heavy working meeting is more productive and free when we meet for a dinner where both those who drink and do not are very comfortable.
    Whether drinking alcohol is good or bad for health is different subject--

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  8. Dear Barry. Please do not change your policy. Beer and wine are very effective social lubricants, I had several very interesting chats at the sundowners and dinners. And there is no point in deciding what is best for others, it would be patronizing, I guess no one likes that!
    Cheers
    Reiner Neumann (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

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    1. Perfectly put Reiner. We have no intention of changing our policy, and soft drinks and fruit juice are always readily available

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