Christmas is a time for celebration and gathering with family and friends and Christmas 2021 will be one to really celebrate – with the vaccine programe well rolled out and the re-opening of our society, we can enjoy this Christmas in a way that was not possible last year
Many of us enjoy a drink, whether it’s with dinner, while watching TV or in our local pub. And drinking alcohol is part of many social occasions and celebrations in Ireland with Christmas being no different. As the national charity working to prevent and reduce alcohol misuse in Ireland, Drinkaware wants to share insights, tips and advice with seniors on how you can enjoy the winter months and be drink aware in the run up to Christmas.
Drinkaware’s annual survey indicated that weekly+ drinking for 65+ age cohort is at 66% versus the national average of 55%. However, people aged 65 and older are less likely to engage in binge drinking (drinking 6 or more standard drinks in one sitting) which is incredibly positive since we know that binge drinking is linked to lower mental and physical health. People aged 65+ were also less likely than the rest of the population to have increased their drinking since the initiations of lockdown.
Often information about alcohol use is aimed at younger people, but we all need to be aware of how much we drink and the potential impact it can have on our health and wellbeing. Drinking daily, even in small quantities is not advised – the HSE low-risk weekly alcohol guidelines advise no more than 11 standard drinks for women and no more than 17 standard drinks for men, spread out over the week with a minimum of two alcohol free days a week. But that raises the question ‘what is a standard drink?’ In Ireland examples of a standard drink would be half a pint of beer, 100ml glass of wine or a 35ml pub measure of spirits.
Alcohol is often used as a coping strategy for people when they feel worried or stressed, or to enhance a person’s mood. Drinking alcohol to improve your mood or to help cope with stress is an unhealthy coping strategy and can prevent a person from developing healthy coping skills.
There are many factors that can influence wellbeing, including alcohol use. Others include exercise, diet, a sense of belonging, relationships and finances. Alcohol can have a negative impact on each of these areas of life and as a result, affect overall wellbeing. Instead of turning to alcohol when stressed or to improve your mood why not try some of these suggestions:
- Limit or cut out alcohol: If you catch yourself reaching for a glass of wine or bottle of beer to reduce stress, make a change. Have plenty of non-alcoholic alternatives in the house and put them within easy reach. It might be helpful to remove alcohol from your shopping list. If it’s not in the house, you can’t drink it.
- Keep an active routine: We all need fresh air and exercise every day. Here in Ireland, we are lucky to have stunning landscapes and green spaces on our doorstep so there are lots of ways to get active, even in the winter months. Maintaining a regular routine of walking or cycling can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. Exploring your local area is a great place to start, and it can be an excuse to meet with friends or family.
- Talk to friends and or family: Talking about your problems or how you are feeling with someone you trust is one of the best things you can do. Keeping in touch can have a positive impact on our mood and ability to deal with problems. This is also a good way to reconnect with people you have lost touch with over the years or haven’t spoken to in a while. Make a list and plan to call, text or write to one every week.
When having a drink in the home it’s easy to think that you’re staying within the low-risk weekly guidelines, but all measures are not the same and it can be easy to pour a drink thinking you are having one when it could actually be two or even three in one serving. Having a measure cup to hand can help keep track of the drinks being poured and Drinkaware has free measure cups that can be ordered on our website: https://drinkaware.ie/order-resources/ or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.