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Warning over worrying new alcohol figures - we need to look after ourselves this Spring say health campaigners

Dr Sarah - drinking release
  • Response to NHS figures showing over 770,000 alcohol hospital admissions during the height of the pandemic
  • Tips from Fresh and Balance to avoid the pitfalls

Worrying new figures highlighting over three quarters of a million hospital admissions from alcohol during the height of the pandemic show that we need to look after ourselves this Spring. That is the message from health campaigners in the North East as pubs reopen outdoors from Monday.

It comes as alarming new figures from NHS Digital figures show over three quarters of a million alcohol-related hospital admissions between April and December last year - over 100 an hour - with three quarters of them (587,501) involving patients over the age of 50.

Fresh and Balance - the North East's tobacco and alcohol harm prevention programmes - are encouraging people to stay healthy and safe and avoid potential pitfalls of more regular drinking or smoking which can weaken the immune system and harm physical and mental health.

The Covid pandemic has brought huge pressures and while 2020 saw a surge in smokers quitting and some people cutting down on alcohol, the same pressures led to over 8m people drinking at risky levels in 2020. A survey by Balance also found that nearly half (44%) of drinkers who were drinking more since Covid felt worse as a result.

Easing of Covid restrictions, from outdoor socialising to pubs re-opening, can bring with them their own temptations and risks:

  • More regular binge drinking can harm our health, make us feel more tired and depressed, weaken the immune system and lead to weight gain.
  • If you've quit smoking, drinking outdoors with your friends can risk breaking your resolve and put you in situations where you feel tempted to smoke.
  • People who both smoke and drink have a higher risk of mouth and throat cancer.
  • Both alcohol and tobacco are linked with a higher risk of cancer, heart attack and stroke and can worsen stress and anxiety.

Sue Taylor, Acting Head of Alcohol Policy for Balance, said: "These new figures are worrying and shocking and show it is not just young people at risk.  When it comes to alcohol, we know the pandemic has added to the problem we already had, creating even more worrying drinking patterns which are wrecking more lives and creating huge pressures on our NHS.

"People are looking forward to socialising but drinking too much alcohol does not need to be part of it - at the end of the day alcohol is a toxin and a depressant which can harm health and cause hangovers, tiredness and low mood, and lead to more family tension.

"It can sometimes feel we are surrounded by alcohol, from advertising on TV to our weekly shop in the supermarket. 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."

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "Life returning to some sort of normal is something most of us welcome after the long winter. We've all struggled during the pandemic but while some people have used this time to quit smoking or cut down on drinking, many others have struggled with one or both. Spring can be a new start to get out and feel good again - but can also bring pitfalls for health which you might end up regretting.

"If you've quit smoking, don't kid yourself that you can have the odd cigarette which can undo the brilliant achievement of quitting and get you hooked again. If necessary, try to avoid putting yourself into situations where you might be tempted to smoke. Vaping is much less harmful than smoking and could be one good way to switch from tobacco."

Gateshead Council's Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Councillor Bernadette Oliphant, said: "We know that it has been an incredibly hard time for residents but looking after your health and wellbeing is vital. It is so important to drink responsibly and to remember to take care in outdoor hospitality settings. If you are trying to quit smoking or have already stopped and are struggling to maintain, our Gateshead stop smoking advisors are available to offer support and guidance, just get in touch at www.gateshead.gov.uk/smokefree."

Dr Sarah Louden, a GP from Newcastle, said: "As we come out of lockdown we completely understand that a lot of people will want to enjoy the opportunities to socialise with friends and family again, however it is still really important to look after our health.

"It may be tempting to drink more alcohol or reach for a cigarette when socialising outdoors but we don't want people to slip into habits that can be hard to break and have long term health risks. Some of the best things you can do for your health - both now and in the longer term - are to not smoke, try to keep to a healthy weight and don't drink too much alcohol. This can help reduce your risk of heart disease, strokes and certain cancers and boost your immune system and mental health. If you are struggling speak to your GP who can offer further advice."

Data from NHS Digital shows that there were 773,523 alcohol-related admissions between April and December last year - with three quarters of them (587,501) involving patients over the age of 50.  Alcohol-related admissions involving patients between 60 and 80 stood at over 300,000, compared to fewer than 100,000 admissions for patients aged 20 to 40. Visit Yahoo news - More older people being admitted to hospital for alcohol-related reasons amid concerns over lockdown boozing.

The figures come just six months after experts warned that the number of people drinking "high risk" amounts of alcohol had doubled since before lockdown.

Deaths from alcohol hit a new high during the first nine months of 2020, up 16% on the same months in 2019 and the biggest toll recorded since records began in 2001.

Alcohol is now understood to be linked to heart disease, stroke and 7 types of cancer, while deaths linked to liver disease have risen a staggering 400% in 40 years. Alcohol can also contribute to the worsening of symptoms of many mental health problems, especially low mood and anxiety.

Smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and illness with around 74,600 deaths attributable to smoking each year in England. Smoking on average shortens life expectancy by 10 years. A recent report published (23 March) by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) shows smokers in England on average need social care at the age of 63; 10 years earlier than non-smokers, with 1.5 million people needing help with everyday tasks due to smoking.

Five tips

  • Take more drink-free days, and on the days you do drink have a glass of something non-alcoholic for each drink you have. Despite alcohol advertising, don't feel you have to drink.
  • Be on your guard against situations in which you might feel tempted to smoke. Using an electronic cigarette is much less harmful than smoking and evidence shows vaping is 70% more effective in helping smokers quit than nicotine replacement therapy. Visit the NHS website for more information.
  • Know your alcohol units - Chief Medical Officer guidance is to not exceed more than 14 units a week. Home poured measures can often differ from standard measures used in pubs. Visit the Reduce My Risk website to try a free quiz to see how well you know how many units are in a pint or a glass of wine.
  • Talk to others about your health goals before meeting up. If you've stopped smoking or reduced your drinking during lockdown, letting friends and family know before you get together can help you stay on track.
  • The Try Dry app from Alcohol Change is a good way to understand your drinking pattern and track your progress by using the 'My charts' feature to see how much money you spend, units you drink and calories you consume over a time period.
Dr Sarah - drinking release
12 April 2021
  • Response to NHS figures showing over 770,000 alcohol hospital admissions during the height of the pandemic
  • Tips from Fresh and Balance to avoid the pitfalls

Worrying new figures highlighting over three quarters of a million hospital admissions from alcohol during the height of the pandemic show that we need to look after ourselves this Spring. That is the message from health campaigners in the North East as pubs reopen outdoors from Monday.

It comes as alarming new figures from NHS Digital figures show over three quarters of a million alcohol-related hospital admissions between April and December last year - over 100 an hour - with three quarters of them (587,501) involving patients over the age of 50.

Fresh and Balance - the North East's tobacco and alcohol harm prevention programmes - are encouraging people to stay healthy and safe and avoid potential pitfalls of more regular drinking or smoking which can weaken the immune system and harm physical and mental health.

The Covid pandemic has brought huge pressures and while 2020 saw a surge in smokers quitting and some people cutting down on alcohol, the same pressures led to over 8m people drinking at risky levels in 2020. A survey by Balance also found that nearly half (44%) of drinkers who were drinking more since Covid felt worse as a result.

Easing of Covid restrictions, from outdoor socialising to pubs re-opening, can bring with them their own temptations and risks:

  • More regular binge drinking can harm our health, make us feel more tired and depressed, weaken the immune system and lead to weight gain.
  • If you've quit smoking, drinking outdoors with your friends can risk breaking your resolve and put you in situations where you feel tempted to smoke.
  • People who both smoke and drink have a higher risk of mouth and throat cancer.
  • Both alcohol and tobacco are linked with a higher risk of cancer, heart attack and stroke and can worsen stress and anxiety.

Sue Taylor, Acting Head of Alcohol Policy for Balance, said: "These new figures are worrying and shocking and show it is not just young people at risk.  When it comes to alcohol, we know the pandemic has added to the problem we already had, creating even more worrying drinking patterns which are wrecking more lives and creating huge pressures on our NHS.

"People are looking forward to socialising but drinking too much alcohol does not need to be part of it - at the end of the day alcohol is a toxin and a depressant which can harm health and cause hangovers, tiredness and low mood, and lead to more family tension.

"It can sometimes feel we are surrounded by alcohol, from advertising on TV to our weekly shop in the supermarket. 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."

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "Life returning to some sort of normal is something most of us welcome after the long winter. We've all struggled during the pandemic but while some people have used this time to quit smoking or cut down on drinking, many others have struggled with one or both. Spring can be a new start to get out and feel good again - but can also bring pitfalls for health which you might end up regretting.

"If you've quit smoking, don't kid yourself that you can have the odd cigarette which can undo the brilliant achievement of quitting and get you hooked again. If necessary, try to avoid putting yourself into situations where you might be tempted to smoke. Vaping is much less harmful than smoking and could be one good way to switch from tobacco."

Gateshead Council's Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Councillor Bernadette Oliphant, said: "We know that it has been an incredibly hard time for residents but looking after your health and wellbeing is vital. It is so important to drink responsibly and to remember to take care in outdoor hospitality settings. If you are trying to quit smoking or have already stopped and are struggling to maintain, our Gateshead stop smoking advisors are available to offer support and guidance, just get in touch at www.gateshead.gov.uk/smokefree."

Dr Sarah Louden, a GP from Newcastle, said: "As we come out of lockdown we completely understand that a lot of people will want to enjoy the opportunities to socialise with friends and family again, however it is still really important to look after our health.

"It may be tempting to drink more alcohol or reach for a cigarette when socialising outdoors but we don't want people to slip into habits that can be hard to break and have long term health risks. Some of the best things you can do for your health - both now and in the longer term - are to not smoke, try to keep to a healthy weight and don't drink too much alcohol. This can help reduce your risk of heart disease, strokes and certain cancers and boost your immune system and mental health. If you are struggling speak to your GP who can offer further advice."

Data from NHS Digital shows that there were 773,523 alcohol-related admissions between April and December last year - with three quarters of them (587,501) involving patients over the age of 50.  Alcohol-related admissions involving patients between 60 and 80 stood at over 300,000, compared to fewer than 100,000 admissions for patients aged 20 to 40. Visit Yahoo news - More older people being admitted to hospital for alcohol-related reasons amid concerns over lockdown boozing.

The figures come just six months after experts warned that the number of people drinking "high risk" amounts of alcohol had doubled since before lockdown.

Deaths from alcohol hit a new high during the first nine months of 2020, up 16% on the same months in 2019 and the biggest toll recorded since records began in 2001.

Alcohol is now understood to be linked to heart disease, stroke and 7 types of cancer, while deaths linked to liver disease have risen a staggering 400% in 40 years. Alcohol can also contribute to the worsening of symptoms of many mental health problems, especially low mood and anxiety.

Smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and illness with around 74,600 deaths attributable to smoking each year in England. Smoking on average shortens life expectancy by 10 years. A recent report published (23 March) by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) shows smokers in England on average need social care at the age of 63; 10 years earlier than non-smokers, with 1.5 million people needing help with everyday tasks due to smoking.

Five tips

  • Take more drink-free days, and on the days you do drink have a glass of something non-alcoholic for each drink you have. Despite alcohol advertising, don't feel you have to drink.
  • Be on your guard against situations in which you might feel tempted to smoke. Using an electronic cigarette is much less harmful than smoking and evidence shows vaping is 70% more effective in helping smokers quit than nicotine replacement therapy. Visit the NHS website for more information.
  • Know your alcohol units - Chief Medical Officer guidance is to not exceed more than 14 units a week. Home poured measures can often differ from standard measures used in pubs. Visit the Reduce My Risk website to try a free quiz to see how well you know how many units are in a pint or a glass of wine.
  • Talk to others about your health goals before meeting up. If you've stopped smoking or reduced your drinking during lockdown, letting friends and family know before you get together can help you stay on track.
  • The Try Dry app from Alcohol Change is a good way to understand your drinking pattern and track your progress by using the 'My charts' feature to see how much money you spend, units you drink and calories you consume over a time period.
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