LAST night I ‘celebrated’ the latest advice on alcohol consumption with one bottle of beer, followed by a small tin.
The message from this latest study, and don’t worry there’s bound to be another along soon, is that no alcohol is safe to drink.
The Global Burden of Disease study, published in the Lancet, looked at levels of drinking and its health effects in 195 countries, including the UK, between 1990 and 2016.
It’s all there on the BBC website, should you wish to depress yourself. The headline figure compared people who did not drink at all with those who had one drink a day.
Here’s something to swill round your mouth…. “They found that out of 100,000 non-drinkers, 914 would develop an alcohol-related health problem such as cancer or suffer an injury. But an extra four people would be affected if they drank one alcoholic drink a day.”
An extra four people a day might not sound like a lot, and that’s because it’s not. Two drinks a day, and 63 more developed ‘a condition’ and for five drinks a day, an extra 338 people developed a health problem. And so gloomily on.
Two years ago, the government cut the recommended levels of alcohol to 14 units a week: that’s equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or seven glasses of wine.
I never drink as much beer as that in a week, but I do drink wine as well, usually a shared bottle a week, so let’s call it quits.
This study made me feel grumpy. Perhaps that’s because I kid myself about what I drink, although I think I know what passes these lips. And drinking is enjoyable, the taste, the unwinding, the pleasure of it all.
Perhaps I drink too much wine at the weekends, especially if my wife isn’t bothered. But the drinking days are followed by three or four non-drinking days, and that suits me fine.
The BBC report fizzed with alarming facts and figures, popped with enough statistics to give you a black eye. But I don’t think it will change the way I drink.
A parting quote said more than all the other alarmist slaps about the face. It was from another professor, and what a lot of those there are to go around (I even have one for a brother).
Prof David Spiegelhalter is the Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge – a title so long he probably pulls it around on wheels.
“Given the pleasure presumably associated with moderate drinking, claiming there is no ‘safe’ level does not seem an argument for abstention,” the wise prof said. “There is no safe level of driving, but the government does not recommend that people avoid driving.
“Come to think of it, there is no safe level of living, but nobody would recommend abstention.”
Give that man another title. How right he is. There is no safe level of anything, everything comes with risks. Being alive is a risk; stepping outside and breathing the traffic-fogged air is a risk; turning on the news and being assaulted by the latest Brexit idiocies or Trump tantrums is a risk of fatally ruining your mood.
Oh, it’s all a risk. I shall stick to what I consider to be moderate drinking, if that’s all right with you and all those tongue-tutting profs. Spiegelhalter is the man for me, and “there is no safe level of living” is my new motto.
Of course, it is possible to be a hypocrite about all this. All the advice about not smoking seems sensible to me, but then I stopped having the occasional cigar about 35 years ago. Smoking is worse than drinking, so it’s fine for the government to offer advice on that. But because I like drinking, anti-alcohol advice is irritating.
But I’ll carry on being a hypocrite if that’s all right, although maybe some nights I’ll skip that second tin.