17 million sick days are taken in the UK every year due to alcohol and around 200,000 people turn up to work every day with a hangover[1]. Globally, alcohol is the world’s number one risk factor for ill-health and premature death amongst the 25-59 year old age group, the core of the working age population.

Whilst we can talk generally about cutting back on smoking, obesity and exercise is it still a bit taboo to tackle the thorny issue of alcohol with your workforce without sounding like you’re casting judgement?

Most people are now aware of don’t drink and drive message, the statistics show that deaths and serious accidents from drinking and driving have fallen by three-quarters over the last 35 years. But there’s still some work to help people understand if they’re over the limit the next day. Naturally, if you’re employing drivers, pilots or operatives this is vital and probably something that is already addressed, but did you know it takes an hour for each unit of alcohol to work its way through your system? If your employees are starting early morning shifts then cascading that message is vital.

Why we talk about having a little less

We know that 3.5 million men are drinking over the low risk guidelines of 6 pints a week* and this matters because they are increasing their risk of an alcohol related illness. It is why we developed the Have A Little Less, Feel A Lot Better campaign aimed at men between 45-64 years old this year.

Focus groups revealed men in this age group don’t like being told to reduce their drinking down the pub, so we recently encouraged a group of middle aged men to try cutting back on their at home drinking for six weeks. We asked some of them to get a liver assessment and in two cases there was liver inflammation; both ‘testers’ said they weren’t big drinkers.

One of the testers is a long distance lorry driver and had no idea that his drinking had contributed to his weight gain, he lost nearly a stone following our programme. Another was shocked to discover his liver reading was too high and the inflammation showed the beginnings of liver disease. His reading was 79, normal is 40.  After cutting back for six weeks it has greatly reduced it’s now down to 64.

Both of these guys are in their fifties and they could be working for at least another fifteen years. Neither had realised that the way in which they had been consuming alcohol had such a detrimental effect on their health.

Being open about alcohol with your workforce

Isn’t it time to stop being coy with the way employers talk to their workforce about the booze? Let’s face it we’re all living for longer and working for longer; persuading your staff to moderate their drinking habits is a win for all.

But how far are you prepared to go as an employer in ensuring that a moderate drink message filters through your workforce? Alcohol has now been linked to seven types of cancer, and in a recent survey of middle aged men for Drinkaware only a few could identify how many calories were in a pint of beer. Some of them realised they needed to cut back, drink less and exercise more but few were actually doing it.

After works drinks are a bonding experience but can they discriminate against those who don’t like alcohol or those who need to rush home to take up caregiving duties? If you hold parties do you push non-alcoholic alternatives as prominently as the alcoholic ones?

If it’s hard to determine who might like to tackle their drinking then are you promoting messages about the effect of alcohol as prominently as anti-smoking and obesity? A good place to start could be our self-assessment tool on the Drinkaware website. It’s discreet and non-judgemental, and a positive starting point to engage your workforce.

If you would like information about how Drinkaware for employers can help your workforce email DAW@drinkaware.co.uk

References

[1] Nice.org.uk

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