Thursday, 7 May 2015

Health Consequences of Drinking

Isn't it funny how adept we are at only seeing what we want to see, and hearing what we want to hear? When I was a terrible smoker I was confronted multiple times a day with the health warnings. I'd seen endless pairs of blackened, diseased lungs. I knew that half of all smokers will eventually die as a result of their habit. La la la la la (hands over ears).

But now I look at young women smoking outside bars and I want to scream "What are you doing?!? Don't you know how bad that is for you? Do you really think it looks sexy?" And it's only now that the health implications of drinking are starting to hit home.

If you're just lurking and haven't yet quit, then you may as well stop reading now because I bet this will not sink in yet. Too many years of ignoring the statistics! Come back to it another time.

If, however, you are one of the alcohol free, then here - my friend - is the bullet that you have, I hope, missed....

Yesterday I posted about how, in the 1990s, women began to see drinking alcohol as a form of liberation and emancipation (see Women and Alcohol - a Deadly Relationship). We matched the men drink for drink at the University bars, over romantic dinners and at work functions.

And often those men were drinking beer, while we were drinking strong wine, or flavoured vodka shots. We forgot that, whilst we may be their equals (and more!) mentally, we will never be their equals physically.

Because we have less body fat than men, a lower level of a key metabolising enzyme that helps us break down alcohol, and oestrogen intensifies the effect of alcohol, we become dependent on alcohol much faster than men.

And alcoholism is, apparently, twice as deadly for women as it is for men. Alcohol dependant women are 4.6 times more likely to die young, as opposed to men who are 1.9 times more likely. On average these women will die twenty years earlier than those not dependant on alcohol.

Ian Gilmore ex president of the Royal College of Physicians says "In the thirty years I have been a liver specialist, the striking difference is this: liver cirrhosis was a disease of elderly men - I have seen a girl as young as seventeen and women in their twenties with end-stage liver disease. Alcohol dependence is setting in when youngsters are still in their teens. This mirrors what we saw with tobacco, when women caught up with men on lung cancer." (see also Livers and Mojos)

Women who consume four or more alcoholic drinks a day quadruple their risk of dying from heart disease, and are five times more likely to have a stroke. Excessive alcohol consumption is also linked to many cancers - particularly breast cancer.

Globally, one in 5 deaths from alcohol are due to cancer. A study by Oxford University suggests that the relative risk of developing breast cancer increases by 7.1% for every unit of alcohol you drink per day.

So, if you're finding the not drinking thing difficult today, just think - is that one glass of vino (which we know will just lead to another, and another, and another) worth twenty years of your life? Is it worth burdening yourself and your family with the horrific treatment for breast cancer?

Pass me the hot chocolate!

Happy, healthy days to you all!

SM x


  1. I'm in the 'it's not worth it' club with you SM! Give me a clear head over a doubtful, self loathing one any day :-)

  2. OMG sobering statistics and that's just focussing on the health issues let alone all of the other major gains of not drinking !!! Yay thank goodness for staying sober x happy Thursday sm x

  3. Continue loving your writing SM. Many many congrats on your 60 days :)

  4. Great post and reminder!

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  6. Really brilliant your writing. So good to see it in black & white...I was willfully blind to the health implications for years. Now I've quit, they terrify me.v

    1. Thanks so much, Suzie, and welcome! xx

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  8. Wow sobering statistics. I am guessing it has been spoken of for a long time, the link between breast cancer and drinking but honesty I have only heard this in the last few weeks since I stopped drinking. Funny that, I feel there has been a real mind shift for me in how I see alcohol and at the moment I am soaking up as much information as I can to make that mind shift stick.

  9. I'm back trying again, and while I've gotten better in the last two years, I know I shouldn't drink at all. I'm visiting early writings from several bloggers to help remind me of why I need to stick to the plan this time. Perfect reading for me today. 2015 seems so long ago, LOL!