glasses of alcohol

Northumberland residents encouraged to make positive changes as drinking levels rise

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought substantial change and disruption to many. For some, this pressure has had a significant impact on individual drinking levels and residents in Northumberland are now being encouraged to make positive changes to their drinking habits. 

In a recent report from Balance, worrying behaviours such as drinking more days a week than usual, having a first alcoholic drink earlier in the day, drinking alone, and drinking to cope were highlighted.  

In Northumberland, an escalation has been seen in high-risk drinking with an associated increase in the number of glass bottles being recycled throughout lockdown - processing has soared by more than one fifth during 2020/21 although some of this will reflect the closure of pubs and restaurants during lockdown and a general shift to drinking from home.     

Figures on domestic glass collections were revealed as part of a recent report at the council’s Communities and Place Overview and Scrutiny Committee on a kerbside pick-up trial for 1,000 households in Morpeth, Bedlington, Hexham, Alnwick and Lesbury.   

Alcohol is linked to heart disease, stroke and seven types of cancer, while deaths linked to liver disease have risen 400% in 40 years. Alcohol can also contribute to the worsening of symptoms of many mental health problems, especially low mood and anxiety.  

Liz Morgan, Director of Public Health at Northumberland County Council, said: “We know from recent research, that 4.5 million adults in England are now classed as high-risk drinkers - a 40% increase when compared to pre-pandemic rates.  Compared to England, Northumberland has higher rates of hospital admissions due to alcohol related problems and our rates continue to increase. These figures are alarming and the increase during the pandemic is a worrying trend. Whether or not you've felt your drinking creeping up during lockdown, now is a really important time to be looking after ourselves and our families, mentally and physically, and that includes trying to stick within the limits of 14 units per week and making positive changes to your drinking habits.” 

There's a wide range of help available for people who want to reduce their alcohol consumption and some tips include: 
- Take more drink-free days, and when drinking alternate with a non-alcoholic drink.  
- Know your alcohol units – current recommendation is not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread across three days or more. That's around 6 medium (175ml) glasses of wine, or six pints of 4% beer. Home poured measures can often be larger than standard measures used in pubs. Visit to learn more. 
- Talk to others about your health goals before meeting up. If you've reduced your drinking during lockdown, letting friends and family know before you get together can help to on track. 
- Download the Try Dry app by Alcohol Change UK, the charity behind Dry January, which allows participants to track the units, calories and money saved by cutting down or cutting out booze for a month.   

Councillor Wendy Pattison, cabinet member for adult wellbeing said: “Since the Covid pandemic began, it’s understandable that people have looked for ways to cope with the changes to their daily lives. However, some of these coping methods can harmful and lead to habits forming that can affect us long-term. 

“The council is encouraging everyone to think about healthier habits when it comes to drinking such as downloading the NHS Drink Free Days App, choose drinks that are lower in alcohol or set aside alcohol until after your evening meal. 

“Many people who reduce their alcohol intake notice benefits, such as losing weight, being more energetic, feeling less tired, as well as saving money. We would encourage everyone to consider making positive changes to their drinking habits.”  

If you or someone you know is concerned about their alcohol consumption, there is lots of help and advice available on the council and NHS websites: 

The Northumberland Recovery Partnership is also available to support anyone in Northumberland, 18 years old or over, who is experiencing problems with drugs or alcohol.  

For information 

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