Fiona McGill, occupational health manager at BHSF, talks about why turning to alcohol can have long-term consequences.
It is staggering to think that a tenth of adults in the UK turn to alcohol in an effort to cope with loneliness. On top of this, 3.1 million people turn to drink because of relationship issues1.
There is evidence alcohol and mental health are linked. Findings from NHS Digital show that over the past five years, there has been a 4% rise in the number of hospital admissions for alcohol and mental health problems2. Over half of the people in the UK receiving treatment for alcohol issues also require mental health care3.
Consequences of drinking too much alcohol
A major reason for drinking alcohol can be to change our mood – or our mental state. However the long-term consequences of drinking alcohol can be harmful and lead to a downward spiral.
Drinking too much can result in mental health problems getting worse and lead to low moods, anxiety and depression. Alcohol is also a causal factor in over 60 conditions4 including: high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.
If people rely on alcohol to manage their mental health issues, that reliance can become a problem in itself. Drinking can start to get in the way of other activities and put a strain on relationships both at work and personally. This can play a part in undermining a person’s mental wellbeing.
There is also the financial strain. Spending money on alcohol regularly can lead to money worries in the future. Findings from The Money Advice Service revealed that almost a fifth of people in the UK living with debt drink more alcohol than they should5.
Alcohol will not help solve worries.
However there are alternatives to help cope with loneliness without having to turn to alcohol.
Going to the cinema or even a sports event, is an opportunity to be amongst like-minded people with similar interests. There isn’t the expectation to talk to them but just simply being around other people can help with feelings of loneliness.
Joining a class or group based on a person’s hobbies and personal interests can also help. By joining a group, it can provide a sense of belonging, give people something to look forward to during the day and help stave off loneliness.
Keeping active and exercising regularly can not only help with loneliness but also help cope with stress. Exercise can enhance a person’s wellbeing and make them feel good about themselves.
Eating healthily and keeping blood sugar levels stable can make a difference to people’s moods and energy levels. Rather than drinking alcohol, why not make smoothies containing fruit and vegetables? Be adventurous. From combining strawberries with spinach, avocado and oranges to using frozen berries along with strawberry yoghurt and porridge oats6.
Studies have shown that having ten portions of fruit and vegetables every day can significantly lower the risk of having serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer7.
If you know of someone who has alcohol issues or if you’re concerned you may be drinking too much, there are alcohol helplines and charities who will be able to offer guidance and support.