Most of us like to enjoy a tipple now and again, but what do we really know about the short and long term effects of alcohol on our health? In this blog we share the effects that drinking too much can have, the benefits of cutting back, and tips on reducing alcohol consumption.
Mental health effects of alcohol
As alcohol temporarily boosts our mood, making us feel more confident and sociable, many people might down a drink or two to ‘improve’ their mental health.
However, the long-term reality is that it can worsen mental health symptoms and it’s linked to a range of issues from depression, anxiety, poor sleep and alcohol dependency. Let’s delve deeper...
Alcohol is a depressant that can affect the chemicals in our brain. While initially, you may feel more relaxed and outgoing, continued excessive drinking can magnify your mood. So, if you're already feeling down, angry or sad it can heighten these emotions. Regular consumption of alcohol can also decrease the level of serotonin our body produces, leading you to feel even more depressed.
Heavy drinking can also worsen the symptoms of anxiety. For example when the alcohol begins to wear off, you can feel as though you are in fight or flight mode and can become anxious about things you might not usually worry about. This can range from feeling jealous of your partner talking to someone else, worrying about what you have said the night before and feeling anxious about what people think of you.
Heavy binge drinking
Binge drinking basically means drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk. Young people and students are more likely to binge on alcohol as a result of social drinking and peer pressure drinking. The main cause of this is often drinking games and pre-drinking before a night out. However many people can recognise being pressured into having a drink at social events and “joining in,” especially around events and celebrations.
Drinking too much too quickly on a single occasion can increase your risk of:
- accidents resulting in injury
- misjudging risky situations
- losing self-control, such as having unprotected sex
Physical effects of alcohol
We all know that too much alcohol isn’t good for our health and can cause some regrettable hangovers but in the long-term it can also cause some serious health problems and is linked to a range of issues from weight gain, problems with sleeping, skin conditions and illnesses such as liver, mouth and oesophageal cancer.
Lose the booze to snooze
A few drinks before bed can make you feel sleepy and you might think that you’ll get a better night’s sleep for it. However, drinking can disrupt your sleep cycle causing a less restful and light sleep. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it encourages the body to lose extra fluid. So, it's no surprise that after an evening of heavy drinking you're up in the night going to the toilet, sweating and waking to drink water due to dehydration.
More than skin deep
Alcohol can have several effects on the skin and they’re not so pretty either. Alcohol is very dehydrating and can make the skin appear dry and tired looking. As your skin is very dry, your oil glands produce more oil to make up for water loss. This extra oil on your skin can break you out in spots and acne.
You may have also heard of the alcohol flush reaction, where your skin appears red after drinking... the red wine = red face look. Alcohol flush doesn’t affect everyone though as it actually depends on your genes. To find out more about how your genetics influence how you process alcohol, as well as lots of other useful insights into your health, why not try an Evergreen Life DNA testing kit?
Give up the drink and shrink your waist
Many of our favourite alcoholic drinks are much higher in calories than most people realise. According to the NHS, a standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate, and a pint of lager has about the same calorie count as a packet of crisps. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram which is almost equivalent to a gram of fat. So it's no surprise that those cheeky after work pints have been sticking around on your waistline.
Alcohol and related diseases
Over many years, heavy drinking will gradually take its toll on your body and its organs. The most common parts of the body damaged by long-term drinking are the brain, nervous system, heart, liver and pancreas. Heavy drinking can also increase your blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, which are major risk factors for heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.
While this all sounds pretty scary, the main thing to remember is to enjoy yourself but drink responsibly and be aware of the effects that excessive drinking can have in the long-run.
Benefits of reducing alcohol consumption
While many of us will be enjoying a tipple over the festive period, we’re certainly going to more conscious of the amount we knock back.
Besides the obvious physical health benefits of reducing the amount of alcohol, the mental aspects are certainly enough to persuade us. Just imagine the joy of waking up anxiety-free, no hangover and being able to go out and enjoy the rest of your weekend with the money you’ve saved on not drinking!
Give it a shot and drink less
Try out our top tips on curbing those drinking habits.
- Alcohol units
Unfortunately, there’s no ‘safe’ drinking level, but there is advice on low-risk drinking. Men and women are advised to drink no more than 14 units over a week. As a general rule, one pint contains 3 units and one medium glass of wine contains 2.4 units. To work out your weekly alcohol unit total try the drink calculator to see how much you’re currently guzzling down.
- Alcohol-free drinks
Another option is to try some non-alcoholic drinks. There’s now a much wider choice of alcohol-free drinks available other than your standard fizzy drink or fruit juice. There’s an abundance of alcohol-free beers, alcohol-free wines and mocktails that are just as fancy and tasty as the real deal!
- Alcohol-free days
Some people set themselves certain days of the week where they don’t drink. Having specific alcohol-free days is a simple way of drinking a little less and feeling better for it. It's also better to spread your drinking out rather than drinking over a couple of days. Try comparing your drinking habits with the rest of the UK here.
Taking control of your health and wellbeing isn’t always the easiest of tasks, but with the Evergreen Life app it's certainly a lot easier. You can monitor your fitness, keep track of medical records, set medication reminders and book doctors appointments online.
If you’re concerned about your drinking or someone else’s, visit the NHS’ Drink Less website for a range of alcohol support services.