Research by Vitality, the health and life insurer, has found over 45% of London’s workforce binge drink at least once a month, with 36% drinking more than the NHS recommended 14 units of alcohol per week (the equivalent of six pints of lager or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine.)
Nearly 26,000 workers were surveyed as part of Vitality’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, which was developed in partnership with RAND Europe and the University of Cambridge. The study looked at a number of lifestyle factors including physical health, mental wellbeing, clinical risk and productivity. Respondents were asked to share how often they binge drink each month and how often they exceeded the NHS’ recommended units of alcohol per week.
Compared to other areas in the UK, London stacks up as the capital of binge drinking. In East Anglia (30%) and East Midlands, less than a third (30%) of workers said they binge drink at least once a month. Workers in the Channel Islands or Isle of Man drink the least – only 18% said they consumed more than the NHS recommended 14 units of alcohol per week.
Workers in Scotland were also found to drink far less than their English counterparts. A quarter of Scots (27%) were found to drink more than the NHS’ recommended 14 units per week – compared with 36% of Londoners and 34% of people from the North East.
The big smoke no more?
As well as consuming more than the recommended amount of alcohol per week, 16% of workers from Yorkshire and the Humber admitted to still smoking despite the health dangers being widely reported, and one in ten (10%) said they vaped. London, famously the big smoke, however bucks the nationwide trend- with less than 9% of employees in the capital admitting they smoke and only 3% found to be vaping.
A study by Public Health England in 2015 found Brits make 165 million trips to bars, pubs and clubs in December. With this typically ‘boozy’ festive period just around the corner, Vitality is urging people to consider the health implications of excessive drinking. Regularly drinking more than 14 units a week could result in long-term illness such as high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease and liver cancer and evidence shows that it can also have a significant impact on mental health.
Dr. Dawn Richards, GP for VitalityHealth Insurance says:
“It’s great to see London’s workers are taking the health implications of smoking seriously and quitting smoking. What our data has shown however, is that their attitudes are not the same when it comes to drinking.
“As we head into the celebratory festive period, risks of binge drinking are higher than usual. Whilst you can still have a good time and enjoy a drink or two, it’s important to put your health first and consider the amount of alcohol that you’re consuming.”
Dr Dawn’s top tips for enjoying the merry Christmas period, whilst staying on top of your health:
- Stick to your units
Really try to stick to the NHS recommended 14 units* per week as much as you can. It’s easy to measure out the units of your favourite festive tipple. See the guide from the NHS to find out how many units are in different drinks.
- Have a lower-strength drink
Cut down on alcohol by swapping strong beers or wines for ones with a lower strength Alcohol By Volume % (ABV). This is used to measure the alcohol content in the drink. You can usually find this information on the bottle.
- Make it a smaller one
You can still enjoy a drink, but why not go for a smaller size at your Christmas party? Try bottled beer instead of pints or opt for a small (175ml) glass of wine rather than the large 250ml.
- Order a mocktail
If you’re heading out to bars or clubs for your Christmas party, they will likely offer a mocktail menu alongside alcoholic drinks. If they don’t, try ordering a ‘virgin’ version of your favourite cocktail from the bartender without alcohol.
- Enjoy a few booze-free days in the lead up to Christmas
I’d recommend 2-3 consecutive alcohol-free days as this helps your system recover and can reset your tolerance, too. A simple ruling can make it easier to stick to – for example, ‘Tuesdays to Thursdays I don’t drink.’ Another option is to try the free Drink Aware app, which allows you to track how much alcohol you have on a daily basis and rewards you for achieving targets like building up ‘no drinking’ days.
*Gin, rum, vodka, whisky, tequila, sambuca. Large (35ml) single measures of spirits are 1.4 units [NHS guidelines].