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Middle-aged should have drink-free days, campaigners say

By Laurel Ives
BBC Health

image copyrightGetty Images
image caption"Drink-free" days can reduce the chance of cancer and weight gain

A new campaign is urging people between the ages of 45 and 65 to have regular "drink-free" days.

Middle-aged drinkers are more likely than any other age group to drink more than the recommended 14 units a week.

A YouGov poll also suggests they find cutting back on alcohol far harder than eating healthily or exercising.

Doctors say "drink-free" days will improve sleep, help with weight loss and reduce the risk of high blood pressure and cancer.

Calorie consumption

Dr Julia Verne, a spokeswoman on liver disease for Public Health England, said: "Having a day off drinking gives you a chance to clean your system and give your liver a rest.

"It also has an immediate impact on your sleep and calorie consumption.

"People have also told us that the idea of a 'drink-free' day is much easier to manage than cutting down, say, from one large glass of wine to a small glass of wine."

The campaign, Drink Free Days, is a partnership between Public Health England and the alcohol education charity Drinkaware.

Cutting down

The YouGov poll - by PHE and Drinkaware - surveyed nearly 9,000 18- to 85-year-olds during May and June this year.

It found that one in five was drinking more than the government's 14 unit-a-week guidelines.

And two-thirds said they would find cutting down on their drinking harder to do than improving their diet, exercising more or reducing their smoking.

Dr Verne said: "Most middle-aged people are not drinking to become drunk.

"They see it as a social activity, or as a reward for success or compensation for a hard day at work.

"It's become a habit and part of their lives.

"But the more you drink, the more you increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart and liver disease and cancer.

"Ultimately you are more likely to cut down if you have some days off drinking."

She also pointed out that many people in this demographic were struggling with their weight and didn't realise how many calories were contained in alcohol.

image copyrightPublic Health England/Drinkaware
image captionResearchers urged people to consider that alcohol contains a lot of calories

In 2016, the government cut the alcohol limits it recommended for men and women to 14 units a week - six pints of average-strength beer or seven glasses of wine.

But more recently a global study by the Lancet indicated there was no safe level of alcohol consumption, although the risks associated with two units a day were small.

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