For the past three decades or so, the conventional wisdom has been that drinking alcohol at moderate levels is good for us. The evidence for this has come from many studies that have suggested the death rate for moderate drinkers is lower than that for non-drinkers. In other words, we thought moderate drinkers lived longer than those who didn’t drink at all.
Recent headlines claim that a glass of wine or a pint of beer a day shortens your life. It’s enough to dampen any thoughts of a celebratory drink or two at Christmas. But those conclusions are based on a partial view of the alcohol debate.
In Australia, almost 6,000 deaths a year can be attributed to alcohol, as well as around 400 hospitalisations a day. While drinking has declined in some segments of the population, with related stabilising of rates of death and illness, these numbers are far too high. Similar reports are emerging in other countries.
In 2018, I’ll quit smoking, really. And I’ll stop drinking alcohol, at least for a while… The first month of the year is traditionally a time for healthy resolutions. Many in the United Kingdom start off with “Dry January”, the idea being to foreswear alcohol completely in the month following the festive season. (Whether there are health benefits or not is another question)
The Scottish geologist James Hutton made a proposal in 1788 that, at the time, was extraordinarily controversial. He described Earth as a “beautiful machine”, constantly subjected to long-term decay and regeneration, that could only be understood over many millions of years. This may not sound that contentious, but the challenge this posed to humanity’s sense of time was substantial. Popular contemporary estimates of Earth’s age, such as Bishop Ussher’s calculation that it was created in 4,004 BC, were dwarfed by the magnitude of what Hutton described.
If a glass of wine puts you to sleep, but harder drinks out with friends pump you up, you’re not alone. Drawing on data from the Global Drug Survey, researchers analysed how 30,000 young adults from 21 countries responded to questions about how they feel after drinking alcohol. Respondents reported different reactions depending on the type of alcohol consumed. Study author Mark Bellis, a researcher at Public Health Wales, tells us more.