With many of us struggling to get to the end of one of the many health kicks that appear in January, we may be starting to wonder whether what we are doing is really necessary. Alongside Veganuary there is also Dry January, a movement that has seen many around the world opt to abstain from alcohol for 31 days in an attempt to get healthier.
But do we as a nation have an issue with alcohol? The answer apparently is yes. It has recently been announced that Americans are consuming more alcohol than during Prohibition, and with the trend for drinking increasing steadily over the last twenty years, is there really an option for the trend to stop?
Federal health statistics has shown an increase in per-capita alcohol consumption, and has seen a shocking increase in the number of hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and even deaths that are linked to drinking.
However, there has been some good news. Teenagers are drinking less than before, a sign that they may be witnessing the destruction that alcohol can cause. The influence of social media has also been cited as a reason for the decline. However, public health experts are still concerned over the drinking problem that is on-going.
Dr Tim Naimi, an alcohol researcher at Boston University confirmed that “consumption has been going up. Harms [from alcohol] have been going up. And there’s not been a policy response to match it.”
Before Prohibition was implemented in 1920, the average American adult – and teenager – was drinking around two gallons of alcohol each year. However nowadays the figure is nearer 2.3 gallons, equating to around 500 drinks – or nine drinks a week.
However historians have confirmed that America’s biggest drinking problem was during the early 1800’s with 1830 reaching a peak of nearly seven gallons of alcohol being consumed by the average American.
With such a large alcohol problem the temperance movement campaigned for moderation on alcohol, followed by abstinence and eventually called for the national ban, which was passed in 1919. Prohibition commenced on January 17th 1920 and continued for a further 13 years until it was ended under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration.
Prohibition clearly had an affect on the nation’s drinking habits as following the lifting of the ban the per-capita alcohol consumption was at nearly one gallon, however, the figures have fluctuated ever since. The 1970’s and 1980’s saw an increase to 2.75 gallons, although some have blamed this increase on the recession that was affecting the majority of the developed world at the time.
The mid-1980’s saw attention being focused on the increase in deaths due to drink driving and Congress increased the drinking age from 18 to 21, leading to a fall in alcohol consumption, however it increased again around the mid-1990’s.
William Kerr, senior scientist at Public Health Institute’s Alcohol Research Group commented, “I think people sort of forgot all the problems with alcohol.”
As well as the damage to the bank balance, excessive drinking has many significant health problems including high blood pressure, stroke, liver damage, liver cancer and heart disease. Alcohol is discouraged during pregnancy as it could lead to birth defects, stillbirth or miscarriage. It has also been confirmed that alcohol is responsible for around 30-35% of injuries within the elderly generation.
Alcohol can also be a danger to those around us, as fighting is way more likely to occur due to a higher level of alcohol in our systems. Domestic violence can also be alcohol fueled and of course, there can be damaging results from drink driving.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed that over 88,000 Americans die annually due to excessive drinking, a figure that is higher than those who have died during the recent opioid drug epidemic.
With the number of deaths relating to alcohol issues doubling since 1999 it has been suggested that there are links with the growing overdose epidemic as many drug users drink alcohol at the same time.
Although nearly 75% of those that had alcohol related deaths were male, there has been a significant increase in the amount of alcohol women are now drinking, a fact that has been put down to the increase in binge drinking, where you consume around four or five drinks within two hours.
Aaron White, lead researcher on a recent study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, confirmed that the study – which saw researchers scan death certificates from the last two years looking for those mentioning alcohol problems -had seen the amount of women dying from drinking related causes had increased by 85%. Although the highest age range were those between 55 and 74 it also discovered the number of younger women dying was increasing.
There has also been a change in our attitude towards drinking with many memes ‘promoting’ wine as ‘mommy juice’. And of course, we have all heard of ‘wine o’clock’.