The length of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has challenged many Albertans and caused widespread disruption to our daily lifestyles, affecting how we eat, sleep, socialize and work, among other things. These impacts can also extend to our drinking habits.
In 2021, the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) annual survey of Albertans found that 92% of Albertans drink alcohol responsibly, with 69% being moderate drinkers and 23% non- drinkers. These results are encouraging and similar to figures found in previous surveys. Although reports are also circulating about the increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic, there are reports that more people are turning to non-alcoholic beverages.
Although all of this information seems contradictory as to the overall trend of alcohol consumption, it is undeniable that there are risks and harms associated with excessive alcohol consumption. The Canadian Center on Substance Abuse (CCSA) has studied various alcohol-related harms and concluded that excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of serious diseases, including various cancers, heart disease, strokes, diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver.
What does it mean to drink responsibly? Although many people have a different definition of responsible or moderate drinking, there are standard guidelines to consider. Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines recommend no more than two drinks per day or 10 per week for women, and three drinks per day or 15 per week for men. One of the reasons women are recommended to drink less than men is that women metabolize alcohol less efficiently and therefore absorb more alcohol into their bloodstream.
How do we become more mindful of how much alcohol we should be consuming? AGLC’s DrinkSense program is a free, one-stop online resource for factual information about responsible drinking, risk reduction and understanding alcohol-related harm. You can find simple advice on conscious ways to manage your alcohol intake, such as drinking water between drinks, pouring smaller drinks, planning days without drinking each week to avoid forming a habit and many other useful suggestions.
Do you have questions about the actual amount you spend on alcohol or the number of calories you ingest with certain drinks? AGLC’s DrinkSense Calculator is a handy tool that helps track your alcohol consumption for financial and health reasons. Alberta Health also offers resources on a wide variety of topics ranging from teen alcohol to seniors and mental health, to name a few.
Drinking in moderation is essential to reduce the health and social risks associated with alcohol. Alcohol education and awareness are important tools to help us lead healthy lifestyles whether we are in or out of a pandemic.
The AGLC wants every drinking choice to be informed and encourages Albertans to explore the many resources available on responsible drinking and mindful drinking. If you or someone you know needs more help with alcohol use, please contact the Alberta Health Services Addictions Line at 1-866-332-2322 for support. 24 hours a day or visit albertahealthservices.ca/amh.
Eric Baich is director of social responsibility at AGLC.