DRINKING alcohol at a moderate level “damages the brain” during three key life stages, experts have warned.
Many people have been over consuming their favourite tipple during the coronavirus pandemic due to unprecedented stress levels and experts have claimed that this could be detrimental in certain age groups.
The quiz above lets you discover if you’re drinking too much after it was revealed that more than four million over 50s were binge drinking at least once a week during lockdown.
New research from the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has stated that there are three periods of brain change that could make you sensitive to the effects of alcohol if you over consume during these periods.
But what are the three age ranges and what does the evidence say?
1. From conception to birth
Researchers in Australia and the UK warned that people must “take the long view” when it comes to their alcohol consumption.
It states that globally around 10 per cent of women drink alcohol when they are pregnant.
The experts state that rates of drinking while pregnant are higher in European countries than the rest of the globe.
Drinking whilst pregnant can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorder which is also linked to reductions in brain volume and cognitive impairment.
The BMJ found that even low or moderate consumption is linked to poorer psychological and behavioural outcomes in children.
2. Late teens (15-19 years old)
In European and high income countries more than 20 per cent of 15-19 year olds reported occasional binge drinking.
This, the BMJ states is classed as 60g of ethanol on a single occasion.
Binge drinking in teenage years has previously been linked to reduced brain volume and small to moderate deficits in a range of cognitive abilities and functions.
3.Older adulthood (65+)
As we get older the effects of a hangover become more prominent.
In this age group, alcohol disorders were one of the strongest risk factors of all types of dementia compared with other risk factors such as high blood pressure and smoking.
The authors of the paper point out that moderate drinking in this age group has been linked to a significant loss of brain volume.
The paper states: “Further studies are needed to test whether these structural changes translate into functional impairment.”
7 signs you’re boozing too much… and how to stop
WARNING BELLS INCLUDE:
- Opening a bottle or can earlier in the day than you usually would.
- Finding it hard to stop at one or two drinks.
- Drinking out of boredom.
- Experiencing anxiety or depression, and drinking to cope.
- Feeling the need to drink more each time to get the same feeling.
- Finding the quality of your sleep, mood and productivity has declined.
- Experiencing sweating, shaking or nausea, which could all be symptoms of alcohol withdrawal (it is important to get professional medical advice or support if dependent on alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Stopping drinking completely can be dangerous to your health).
WAYS TO CUT BACK, FROM DRINKAWARE:
- Stick to drinking within low-risk guidelines – no more than 14 units each week.
- Have at least three drink-free days each week and replace drinking with an activity.
- Take the pressure off calculating units by keeping track of your drinking with our app.
- Experiment with alcohol-free drinks, there is an increasing variety on offer in the shops.
- Use smaller glass sizes for drinks and use a bottle stop to save wine for another day.
SOURCES OF HELP:
- For confidential advice, tips and online tools, see drinkaware.co.uk. You can talk to a professional adviser by online chat or over the phone or find a list of support services either online or local to you.
- Drinkaware urges anyone worried about their drinking, or someone else’s, to call Drinkline on 0300 123 1110.
- You can also call We Are With You’s over 50s alcohol helpline on 0808 801 0750
The authors also claim that women are now just as likely to drink alcohol and experience alcohol related harms in a similar way to men.
Global consumption is also set to rise in the next decade and the experts noted that the effects of the coronavirus pandemic is still unclear but added that alcohol use had previously increased after other major public health crises.
Recent research from mental health charity With You, revealed that more than 1.9 million over 50s say lockdown restrictions lead them to start drinking earlier in the day, with 2.1 million saying it has affected their mental health.
A study from the Centre for Ageing Better found 32 per cent of people aged between 50 and 70 have been drinking more as a result of the pandemic.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also shows that people over 55 are most likely to drink at hazardous levels, with consumption among this group increasing in recent years while it decreases among younger age groups.
The research from With You claims that the issue of binge drinking will intensify over the next few weeks, with more than 1.3 million over 50s.
The experts at the BMJ said that people should try and reduce the harm caused by alcohol at all ages.
They concluded: “Population based interventions such as guidelines on low risk drinking, alcohol pricing policies, and lower drink driving limits need to be accompanied by the development of training and care pathways that consider the human brain at risk throughout life.”