Middle-aged drinkers are being told to abstain from alcohol at least two days per week in a new government initiative aimed at curbing health risks later in life.
Drink Free Days, which has been launched by Public Health England and Drinkaware, targets middle-aged drinkers — between 45 and 65 — who are “at greater risk to high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as seven types of cancer”, according to an emailed statement.
The launch comes on the back of a YouGov poll that found that one in five of UK adults are drinking above the Chief Medical Officers’ low risk drinking guidelines.
Two thirds of those surveyed said they would find cutting down on their drinking harder to do than one or more other lifestyle changes such as changing their diet, exercising more, or reducing their smoking, if they were smokers.
“While the link with liver disease is well known, many people are not aware that alcohol can cause numerous other serious health problems,” Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England, said.
“About 10 million people in England are drinking in ways that increases the risks and many are struggling to cut down. Setting yourself a target of having more drink free days every week is an easy way to drink less and reduce the risks to your health.”
The news comes as UK consumers have developed an appetite for lower and non-alcoholic styles of wine, beer and spirits.
Sales of non-alcoholic beer rose by almost 60% in the 12 weeks to 12 August, according to figures from Kantar Worldpanel, while an earlier report noticed a dramatic rise in the sales of low-abv spirits.
The shift towards lower alcohol beverages poses new challenges for drinks producers, particularly in the spirits category Some distillers, such as Edinburgh Gin, are tapping into the long-drinks trend by producing a range of lower ABV liqueurs.
Drinkaware CEO Elaine Hindal added that the new campaign offered a “simple” way for members of the public to adhere to the NHS’ recommended guidelines.
“An increasing number of people, particularly middle aged drinkers, are drinking in ways that are putting them at risk of serious and potentially life limiting conditions,” she said.
“That’s where this campaign comes in and we’re delighted to be joining forces with Public Health England for the first time to help give people that knowledge.”
Former England and Liverpool footballer John Barnes has lent his support to the campaign.
“A beer here and a glass of wine there might not seem like much but the units can add up and so too can the health risks.”
“Having a few more days a week that are drink free is a great way of taking control of our drinking and making healthier choices for the future which is why I am supporting this fantastic campaign.”