Doug and Trevor both like to go to the pub at the weekend. Doug tends to have a few pints over the course of the evening, catches up with friends, then calls it a night.
Trevor only ever intends to have a few pints, but that swiftly turns into eight, by which time he is convinced that shots are a ‘swell idea’.
Trevor does not feel so swell the next morning…..
Moderation is a woolly concept. It allows us to tailor our idea of how allowable something is to our mood, or our own or others preconceptions. The idea of ‘a few’, ‘a couple’ or ‘just a small slice’ often goes out the window in practice.
But what is it that prompts people who are drinking too much to reduce their consumption before it becomes really problematic? And how can this moderation behaviour be encouraged?
In September I attended a conference hosted by HEINEKEN UK. Part of the event focussed on how we can encourage responsible and ‘moderate’ drinking.
It seems the UK has a drinking problem. We know there are safe unit guidelines, but according to the Office of National Statistics more than a third of us regularly exceed them. The amount of people who are being treated by the NHS for alcohol related health problems has risen. This isn’t just what are referred to as ‘dependent drinkers’; those people who are drinking so much that they need to drink to avoid withdrawal symptoms, but those that are bingeing at weekends, those who are drinking a bottle of wine to relax at the end of the day……those who can go without alcohol, but when they do drink, it’s often not in moderation.
HEINEKEN’s research looked at the reasons that men may choose to reduce their drinking according to their age bracket. This showed that at first, younger men will moderate their drinking in order to avoid looking daft in front of their peers, moving onto an age bracket where their priorities change, shifting towards family and longer term goals (who wants a toddler bouncing on them when they have a stinking hangover?), and finally, men in their 40's and above will moderate in order to preserve their looks and waistlines.
The drinks industry has responded to the calls for promoting moderate drinking by creating lower alcohol choices for consumers. But is it really a lack of product choice that has influenced our poor relationship with alcohol, or is it something else? How does an individual have ‘the power to moderate?’
What motivates people when there aren’t a raft of immediate negative consequences (perhaps other than a hangover in the short term, and the longer term potential health consequences)? There is always a reason to moderate, so how can Trevor be encouraged to think about the reasons, and then take concrete action?
Tools like those found on moderation.org and Drinkaware can offer the how, there’s plenty of information on the why, but how do we get people started with the when?
It’s Alcohol Awareness week. That’s as good a time to start looking at our relationship with ‘moderation’ as any. So whether it’s cake, chocolate, wine or beer, pay attention to your consumption over the next few days and think about making a change for the better.