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Be Alcohol Aware - A Perspective - Alcohol and Gender

As part of our Be Alcohol Aware campaign to mark NI Alcohol Awareness Week 2018, ASCERT colleague, Anna McArdle, Alcohol and You Project Worker, shares a perspective on alcohol and gender.

“I like to enjoy a drink at the weekends when meeting up friends, having the craic and a bit of a laugh down at the local. I usually enjoy a Guinness, which may I add is excellently poured by the bar man. I enjoy the chat, the atmosphere and the general light hearted conversation we have. Around this time of year, hot topics of discussion include Love Island, how bad the weather is and grand travel plans that we’ll probably never get round to doing.

“One thing that has always struck me is the gender culture when it comes to alcohol. I’ve always liked a Guinness, but in my experience it’s seen as a ‘man’s drink’. Most times when I’m enjoying my Guinness , someone (normally a man) would pass comment such as ‘oh she’s on the Guinness’ or on occasions……it would be ‘a girl on the Guinness eh’ then would look to my boyfriend as if to confirm that it was in fact my drink and not his.  I do find this amusing at times and possibly makes me even more definite to continue with this ‘trend’ to change stereotypes.

“When the guidelines around recommended weekly units of alcohol changed in 2016, some men felt a bit short changed because their recommended units changed from 21 to 14, seemingly bringing them in line with women. Since I worked in the field at the time, male friends would talk to me about it. One in particular believed that “equality had gone a bit far”…. everyone knows men can drink more than women. While I couldn’t argue with his point that yes a man’s body is able to process alcohol more effectively than a woman’s. The ‘lose’ in the recommended weekly units for men was all that he could see and questioned why woman’s didn’t drop too.

“What my friend didn’t do was read into the health benefits of drinking less or what the research showed us. That new evidence has found that the relationship between drinking alcohol and the risk of developing cancer is stronger than previously thought which was why the changes were made. Therefore if both men and women limit their intake of alcohol to no more than 14 units spread out over the week it reduces the harm caused by alcohol and keeps the risk of illness like cancer and liver disease low.  While he said he still felt a little short changed compared to woman, he did see my point in the end and commented that it was good to be aware of safer limits.

“I reflected on the change and highlighted that if nothing else it got people talking about the new alcohol units and perhaps for some people they discovered what a unit was and what the benefits were of safer alcohol limits.

“So 14 units of alcohol recommended for both men and women, no matter what your choice of drink is, even if you’re like me and sometimes order a bottle of beer and enjoy it straight from the bottle rather than using a glass. We all can make more informed choices about our alcohol use in order to try and look after our physical and mental health better.

“If you want to find out more about this please contact us on 0800 2545 123 or email: info@ascert.biz and ASCERT can help you get the information you need.”

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