Alcohol – a love hate thing
For many people, the festive period is closely associated with over indulgence – often regarding both food and alcohol. We use the party season as an excuse to enjoy one or two more glasses of wine than we would usually allow ourselves. While alcohol may be a treat for some people, others have a more strained relationship with the substance.
Stress can cause some people to drink more as a coping mechanism. As dentistry is a highly stressful profession, it’s important that individuals monitor how they manage their stress levels to avoid any associated health problems.
Stress and alcohol
Drinking alcohol is one of the most common ways people cope with stress. A 2018 report by Drinkaware[i] suggested this was true for 58% of survey participants. Among these, 38% drank to forget their problems, 47% to cheer themselves up and 41% to deal with feelings of depression or nerves. This is particularly relevant in dentistry due to the high risk of occupational stress. A British Dental Association (BDA) paper found that more than half of dentists surveyed experienced high stress at work.[ii] Consequently, 22.1% of respondents admitted to drinking alcohol four or more times each week.
Excessive drinking over a prolonged period of time can lead to various negative health conditions. These include cancers of the mouth, throat and breast, stroke, heart disease, liver disease, brain damage and damage to the nervous system.[iii] In addition, alcohol can disrupt sleep, lower energy levels and affect mental health.[iv] Sadly, someone dies in the UK every hour as a result of alcohol.[v]
It is therefore important for everyone to monitor their alcohol intake, regardless of age, gender, nationality or pastimes. It is especially vital for those who are exposed to greater stress, such as dental professionals. Reducing frequency and duration of alcohol intake will help us all live healthier and longer lives.
Run by charity Alcohol Change UK, Dry January is a popular nation-wide initiative. Roughly 4 million people in the UK take part by giving up alcohol for the month.[vi],[vii] There are many benefits to be had from a booze-free four weeks. According to the charity behind the campaign:[viii]
- 86% of participants save money
- 70% of participants sleep better
- 66% of participants have more energy
- 65% of participants improve their health
As such, Dry January is the perfect initiative to get involved with for anyone looking to change their relationship with alcohol. Even if you can’t cut it out, just try cutting down – any such change is a positive one #NoLo.
Top tips and support
Tips from the NHS website for minimising the risk of harm from alcohol consumption include:
- Drink no more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
- Spread alcohol consumption over three or more days to avoid binge drinking
- Try swapping to low- or non-alcohol alternatives as often as possible
- Eat food when drinking alcohol
- Drink water between alcoholic beverages to stay hydrated
Furthermore, the Dentists’ Health Support Trust offers a lifeline to clinicians who may be coping with stress in unhealthy ways. It provides invaluable support and guidance for those who have lost their way. Through a combination of education, monitoring and support, it helps individuals overcome their challenges and return to their normal lives.
[i] Drinkaware. Adults (18-75) in the UK who drink alcohol for coping reasons. [Accessed January 2020]
[ii] Colin V, Toon M, O’Selmo E, Reynolds L, Whitehead P. A survey of stress, burnout and wellbeing- in UK dentists. British Dental Journal. January 2019; 226(1): 7
[iii] NHS. Live Well. Alcohol support. The risks of drinking too much. [Accessed January 2020]
[vi] The British Liver Trust. 4.2 million people in the UK to give up alcohol for Dry January 2019. [Accessed January 2020]