Our national drinking problem – whose responsibility?

Today’s health news comments on research published in the BMJ, showing a correlation between alcohol consumption and cancer risk.  It is well known that excessive drinking is bad for our health, however this knowledge does not seem to be sufficient to curb our need for alcohol.

Who should take responsibility for our national overdrinking problem?  GPs?, the individual?, public health?, the employer?  The answer is probably a combination of all of these, with a benefit from any interventions that might help to lessen the growing norm of excessive drinking.

Ultimately the responsibility will rest with the individual, but it is interesting to think what others might do to encourage this responsbility.  One suggestion is that there may be space for more public health interventions delivered through the workplace.  Increased stress levels in the workplace may be one cause of the perceived need to drink to relax after work, and drinking may also be encouraged as part of workplace social life.  However employers also have incentives to encourage healthy living, such as reduced alcohol consumption, to reduce the costs of employee absenteeism due to illness.

Public health teams and local councils should look to see how they can work more closely with local employers to encourage health through the workplace.  This policy has been advocated by the Men’s Health Forum, as one way to get health messages to working men who often do not take enough care of their own health.

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