The Drink Free Days campaign will be encouraging middle-aged drinkers to take more days off from drinking as a way of reducing health risks from alcohol.
This follows the results of a YouGov poll that found one in five (20%) UK adults are drinking above the Chief Medical Officer's low-risk drinking guidelines of 14 units a week and more than two thirds said they would find cutting down on their drinking harder to do than one or more other lifestyle changes, such as improving their diet, exercising more or reducing smoking.
British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “BBPA welcomes the new partnership between PHE and Drinkaware to encourage those who need help to moderate their drinking habits.
“Beer is the drink of moderation and typically offers the lowest strength options within the category. Drinkaware is an independent charity, supported by the sector, which does excellent work to educate the public about risks of excessive alcohol consumption, including the Government’s low-risk drinking guidance and programmes such as ‘drink a little less, feel a lot better’.
“Moderate alcohol consumption is clearly part of this and lower-strength drinks like beer have a real part to play and can be enjoyed as part of a healthy lifestyle and diet.”
The variety of low and no-alcohol options has improved over recent times, meaning those who don’t want to drink alcohol have options to choose from, according to UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls.
She said: “Customers should certainly make sure they do not drink excessively and pubs are instrumental in promoting healthier attitudes to alcohol.
“The range of low and alcohol-free drinks available in pubs has become incredibly sophisticated in recent years so customers looking to stick to soft drinks are well catered for.”
Potentially life-limiting conditions
PHE and Drinkaware chose to focus on Drink Free Days because of evidence from behavioural science that suggested simple and easy ways of helping people change their behaviours were the most effective.
Drinkaware chief executive Elaine Hindal said: “The more you drink, the greater the risk to your health. It is really that simple.
“But 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 such as heart disease, liver disease and some types cancer.
“That is where this campaign comes in and we are delighted to be joining forces with PHE for the first time to help give people that knowledge. Having a few drink-free days each week will help reduce the risks to health and improve wellbeing.”
Drinking has an impact on more than just the liver and by having drink-free days, consumers will reduce the risk to their health, according to PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie.
He said: “Many of us enjoy a drink but whether it is a few in the pub after work a couple of times a week, some beers on the sofa watching the football or regular wine with dinner, it is all too easy to let drinking creep up.
“While the link with liver disease is well known, many people are not aware that alcohol can cause numerous other serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease as well as several cancers.
“It is also an easy way to pile on the pounds. About 10m people in England are drinking in ways that increases the risks and many are struggling to cut down.
“Setting a target of having more drink-free days every week is an easy way to drink less and reduce the risks to health.”
Excessive alcohol consumption
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) also welcomed the campaign. Chief executive Shirley Cramer called the campaign ‘easily understandable’.
She added: “Millions of adults in the UK are drinking in ways that are harmful for their health, often without even realising it, with excessive alcohol consumption leading to a range of health problems, including liver disease, heart disease, and a number of cancers.
“The new Drinks Free Days campaign is a welcome and easily understandable way of starting to take control of alcohol intake.
“Setting a target of a certain number of drink-free days is a simple and achievable way of cutting down and improving health and wellbeing.”
Former England and Liverpool football John Barnes is supporting the campaign and hailed it ‘fantastic’.
Barnes said: “This is an important campaign highlighting how many of us don’t realise that we are drinking in ways that could be harming our health and how we are struggling to moderate.
“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 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.”