How much alcohol is “safe” to consume?

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Why is this important?

This 11-page article presents a landmark analysis of the health risks associated with alcohol consumption. This global scientific effort applies meta-analysis statistical techniques to derive greater scientific validity from the findings currently reported in more than 83 peer-reviewed scientific studies.  My opinion is that this is a study result that will be hard to refute or ignore.

The issue is that alcohol is actually much more dangerous than we think it is.  After all, alcohol is officially considered to be a poison to all forms of life.  Also for comparison, the top 10 percent of American drinkers – 24 million adults over age 18 – consume, on average, 74 alcoholic drinks per week. That’s a lot of alcohol – about 10 drinks a day. This landmark study is recommending no more than 5 drinks per week to avoid unnecessary loss of life.  Many of those heavy drinkers are your co-workers and are probably being served by your own employee wellness program.

This study is critically important because it provides extremely rigorous evidence that alcohol use is a much more significant health problem than we have generally acknowledged it to be. Our wellness programs are in a key position to bring this new information to the attention of employees and their family members.

What can you do with this resource?

Here’s what you could do with this article:

  • Abstract the highlights of the study data and summarize this information for senior management.
  • Provide a summary of the highlights of the article for your benefits and HR staff.
  • Provide that same summary to your wellness champions/ambassadors.
  • Use the information to make a case for examining how your wellness program and organization addresses alcohol use and consumption. (e.g. HRA content, coaching, weight management, nutrition interventions, stress interventions, travel reimbursement policies, EAP, substance abuse care or benefits, etc.)
  • Propose a new initiative and/or new intervention(s) on alcohol awareness and safe use.
  • Use the information to develop communication messages to employees and their family members about the importance of avoiding high levels of alcohol consumption. (> 5 drinks per week)
  • Use the key findings of this study as part of your wellness program’s budget justification.
  • Avoid alcohol-related stocks because they probably will be going down in value.

What was the most important thing I learned from this resource?

The most important thing I learned from this study is… what we think of today as “safe” may actually turn out to be relatively “unsafe” tomorrow. There is a need to be diligent to protect our health.

In summary, this is likely to be a very powerful scientific study that brings a much higher level of attention and focus on our national patterns of alcohol use and specifically what constitutes healthy practices regarding alcohol.

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