Bottoms huh? You might be one of these problem drinkers
Do you fall into one of the following five categories - or perhaps all of them?
A quick glance around your office or friendship group – plus an honest look at your own habits – will confirm that there are many types of drinkers among us.
From the red-faced colleague who drinks every night, to the one (okay, two) glasses of wine a night type, to those who have a blowout on a Friday, to those who drink too much on special occasions such as Christmas lunches, many of us have niggling doubts about our drinking habits, but tell ourselves we don’t actually qualify as an alcoholic.
However, according to a new study, you may still be a disordered drinker. The study, published in health journal Alcohol & Alcoholism, has identified five distinct groups of what the researchers call “problem drinkers”.
“Alcohol use disorder is not really a one-size-fits-all diagnosis,” said Ashley Linden-Carmichael, who co-authored the study and is an assistant professor of biobehavioural health at Pennsylvania State University. “This research allows us to be more finetuned in detection and early screening and early prevention.”
Official guidelines currently state that it’s safest for both men and women to not drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week (one unit is roughly half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine), spread evenly over three or more days. Straying outside of these guidelines increases your risk of mouth, throat and breast cancer, plus liver and heart disease.
Many of us, however, do stray: the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found 29% of men and 26% of women regularly binge-drank. That will come as no surprise to many of us, given the ONS defines binge-drinking as more than eight units (roughly four pints) for men and six units for women, middle-aged people being the most likely to binge.
Linden-Carmichael and her team looked at the data of 5,400 people aged between 18 and 64, who were the type of drinkers who sometimes drank more than they had planned to, or who craved alcohol when they hadn’t drunk in a while. They found the drinkers fell into the following five categories:
‘Adverse effects only’ drinkers: this is the most common type, with 34% of the study participants falling into this category, especially young adults. This type experience few symptoms related to their drinking, other than hangovers.
‘Alcohol-induced injury’ drinkers: the second-most common type (25%), they regularly put themselves at risk of injury after drinking, either by driving or having unsafe sex while drunk, or getting themselves into risky situations that result in physical injury. The typical age for injury drinkers is 58, which surprised the researchers so much they questioned the results: “I thought that was so interesting I double and triple-checked my data,” said Linden-Carmichael, who thought the typical injury drinker would be in their 20s. ‘Highly problematic, low-perceived life interference’ drinkers: the researchers found this was mainly younger drinkers who weren’t concerned about the impact their drinking was having on their academic performance or work. “Young people have a lot of freedom,” said Linden-Carmichael. “They can do whatever they want, and my guess is they think it [their drinking] doesn’t interfere with their life. But it does.”
‘Difficulty cutting back’ drinkers: the over-50s were most likely to fall into this category, who struggle to reduce their alcohol intake. “If someone is in their 60s, it’s possible that they’ve been experiencing symptoms of a use disorder for a long time,” said Linden-Carmichael. “They’re at this precipice of, ‘how do I cut back?’ and realising that they’re struggling to cut back.”
‘Highly problematic’ drinkers: 7% of the study participants were identified as this type, who are likely to experience symptoms of all five groups and experience negative effects on their health, career and relationships as a result of their drinking.
“We need to think beyond whether someone has an alcohol use disorder, yes or no, and take a look specifically at what they’re struggling with and whether they’re in a particularly risky class,” said Linden-Carmichael. “A lot of people think of someone with an alcohol use disorder as someone who is in the highly problematic class, and is meeting every single one of these symptoms, but that’s not the case. Alcohol use disorder doesn’t just look like type five. It looks like all of these.”
Drinkaware chief executive Elaine Hindal said: “An increasing number of people, particularly middle-aged drinkers, are drinking in ways that are putting them at risk of serious and potentially life-limiting conditions such as heart disease, liver disease and some types of cancer.” The alcohol-awareness charity recently launched a campaign encouraging people to have a few drink-free days each week, with tips on how to cut down on your drinking, stay on track and even go alcohol-free. “Having a few drink-free days each week will help reduce the risks to your health and improve your wellbeing,” said Hindal. “The more you drink, the greater the risk to your health. It’s really that simple.”
– © The Daily Telegraph