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Is now the time to quit alcohol?

Dry January, or dry for good?
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Dry January aside, health columnist says many kicking alcohol to the curb permanently might be making a wise choice. Photo supplied.

Alcohol in moderation can be good for your health. We have written dozens of articles on the topic and an entire section of our website is dedicated to the topic. In short, there are plenty of good reasons to enjoy a drink at the cocktail hour. But is there a time for quitting altogether?

Some people think so. And the idea seems to be catching on.

You may have heard about the “sober curious” movement. Coined by writer, Ruby Warrington, being sober curious is about enjoying the benefits of an alcohol-free lifestyle. It has nothing to do with achieving sobriety after problems with alcoholism.

Some efforts are short-term, like “Dry January” and “Sober October”. These trendy campaigns are often paired with charitable causes.

But over recent years, more and more people, especially young professionals, are making a deliberate choice to abstain from alcohol – not for a month, but as a lifestyle choice for the long term. Their online tributes to the benefits of not drinking are compelling.

Despite the list of reasons for healthy moderate drinking, they are celebrating a new list of all the reasons for not drinking at all.

In terms of good health, they point to higher energy levels, better sleep, healthier livers, and lower risk of heart disease. But they are also attributing their position on alcohol to a more authentic engagement with friends and family, as well as with the world around them.

In some countries, the growing numbers of teetotallers are having an economic impact. In Japan, for example, the sober-curious younger generation is rejecting past customs of heavy drinking after work. This trend has resulted in tax revenue from alcohol sales declining by 50% since 1994. Although neither the tax agency nor the liquor industry will point to it, Japanese life expectancy from birth climbed from 80 to 85 years over the same period.

There are other tax-related correlations between alcohol consumption and societal health trends. When governments increase taxes on alcohol, traffic fatalities decline. So does the rate of violent crime. The spread of sexually transmitted diseases is reduced. There are fewer cases of cirrhosis of the liver. In other words, people are highly price conscious about alcohol. When it costs more, people purchase less of it.

This may be the ultimate reason why now could be an optimal moment to quit drinking.

With everything getting more expensive, cutting alcohol from the shopping list may help ease the squeeze on the pocketbook. According to 2017 Survey of Household Spending, the average Canadian household spends about $1,100 per year on alcohol.

In the U.S., a whopping 63% of people aged 21-25 drink alcohol. Whether it be school expenses or early-career wages, it’s easy to see the financial motivation for sobriety.

But is the sober curious movement as good for the old as it may be for the young? Sir William Osler, famed Canadian physician and one of the original four founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital, remarked, “Alcohol is for the elderly what milk is for the young.”

But never forget about moderation. And know that moderation is surprisingly easy to exceed.

Adult men should not exceed two standard alcoholic drinks a day. Women, due to their smaller size, should not exceed one drink a day. A standard drink means a 12oz. or 341 ml beer with 5% alcohol, or a 5 oz. or 142 ml glass of wine, or 1.5 oz or 43 ml shot of 40% spirits.

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