OPINION: Mindful drinking could be life saving
This week the Sydney Morning Herald reported that alcohol-related deaths are on the rise. Figures from 2020 showed an increase of 8.3 per cent, compared to 2019. At the same time, spending on alcohol is up by 14.7 percent.
It’s the latest in a string of news reports that have given me pause. Back in July a study published in The Lancet Oncology, estimated that alcohol caused more than 740,000 cancer cases around the world last year.
What are alcohol related health problems?
The same report concluded that there is strong evidence that alcohol consumption can cause various cancers including those of the breast, liver, colon, rectum, oropharynx, larynx and oesophagus. The research suggests that even low levels of drinking can increase the risk.
However, despite the known risks posed by alcohol, public awareness appears to be low: a May 2021 Australian Cancer Council survey of 1500 people found that less than one-fifth of respondents recognise alcohol as a cancer risk. Likewise, a 2018 survey from the UK found that only one in 10 people were aware that alcohol could cause cancer.
Sales of non-alcoholic beer wine and spirits are booming
In sharp contrast – the mindful drinking trend is more popular than ever, in fact, even Sex & The City appears to be jumping on the wagon. Behind the trend, sales of non-alcoholic drinks - wine, beer and spirits are sky-rocketing. In fact, recent reports estimate that the no-to-low ABV sector will be worth a whopping US$1.44 trillion by 2025.
As a long-term non-drinker, the boom in the alcohol-free drinks industry really excites me. But it can also be divisive, with many Australians clinging on to their full-strength beers with a vice like grip. When I opened Sans Drinks, I was trolled by people who were furious by the idea of an alcohol-free bottle shop.
It’s clear that we need more awareness about the way alcohol can compromise our health, but telling people about the dangers of drinking isn’t going to be enough. We also need to give people tools that allow them to make better choices about their alcohol consumption.
A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that when it comes to alcohol it has to be all or nothing. Abstinence challenges such as Dry July and Feb Fast do a great job in showing people that having a break from alcohol is easier than it sounds. But giving up alcohol altogether isn't for everyone. Mindful drinking might be the answer.
What is mindful drinking?
Mindful drinking is about having a healthy relationship with alcohol – one that gives individuals more control. It’s about enjoying alcohol in moderation and finding alternatives. It's a practice that can help reduce alcohol consumption, improve sleep and fitness, and help with weight loss.
The Lancet Oncology, Global burden of cancer in 2020 attributable to alcohol consumption: a population-based study, published July 13, 2021
Is it time to face the facts about alcohol and cancer? SMH, May 30, 2021
Statista - Worldwide non-alcoholic beverage market revenue from 2012 to 2025, June 16, 2021