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9 December 2021

As festivities begin, one in five are worried about their drinking habits

Drugs, alcohol and mental health charity With You publishes poll results and offers advice for people trying to avoid or cut back on alcohol over the festive season

A new survey, commissioned by drug, alcohol and mental health charity, With You, has found that during the festive season:

  • 1 in 4 (28%) feel pressure to drink more alcohol
  • 1 in 5 (19%) are worried about drinking more alcohol
  • 1 in 6 are (16%) are concerned about spending too much money on alcohol
  • 1 in 7 (15%) are concerned about feeling like they need to drink alcohol to have a good time with friends and family, with a similar number (14%) worrying about drinking a lot of alcohol at a social event.

The independent poll of 1,000+ UK adults (18+) who consume alcohol reveals widespread alcohol-related concerns among the UK population at this time of year. When asked about the reasons for drinking more alcohol in December, the top answer was ‘expectations to drink alcohol when meeting friends and family’ (25%), with 12% saying to cope with loneliness and similar numbers saying to cope with bereavement (11%) and past trauma (10%).

The poll also asked about frequency of drinking at this time of year and found that 1 in 5 (23%) have drunk alcohol for five consecutive days, or more, during the festive season in the past.

Jon Murray, Executive Director of Services for England at With You said: “Throughout December and the New Year, social calendars will be filling up, with some eager to make up for missing out on last year’s celebrations. It’s an exciting time for many, but our research shows that it can be a difficult time for those who would like to drink less or struggle with alcohol.

“Our research shows that as many as one in five are worried about alcohol at this time of year, backing up what we hear from the people who come to our services for support. We often hear of how not just family gatherings and other social events, but also financial pressures and feelings of loneliness and bereavement all come together to make it harder than ever to avoid alcohol.

“That’s why we want to make sure everyone knows where to find support and have created tips and advice for anyone looking to avoid or cut back this December. ”

Commenting on the poll and advice, Gerry, Lived Experience Expert, said:

“It’s hard at Christmas, because everything seems to revolve around alcohol. My advice would be to keep in touch with as many people as possible who understand what you’re experiencing. Change is rarely easy, even when it’s for the best.“

The research also found that over the last six months, a significant number have been opting to reduce their alcohol intake, with 1 in 3 (32%) drinking less than in comparison to previous years. The top three reasons for doing so include saving money (47%), improving physical health (42%), and improving mental health (23%).

With You is releasing tips and advice to help support anyone wishing to avoid or cut back on alcohol this December. The tips have been co-created alongside people who have struggled with alcohol issues in the past.

Advice for cutting back or avoiding alcohol over the festive season

Consider being open with people

If you’re comfortable doing so, you may find it helpful to be open and explain to your loved ones why you’re not drinking and ask for their support. When people know why you aren’t drinking, they will usually be more respectful of your decision.

Plan social gatherings that don’t include alcohol

There can be a lot of events focusing on drinking during December. Instead of meeting up at a pub, think about what you could do that doesn’t revolve around drinking. You could arrange to go for a coffee or a walk, see a show or host a craft afternoon.

Find ways to relax without alcohol

December can be stressful. You might think about drinking to help you relax, but alcohol can actually make you feel worse. It’s okay to instead take a step back and recharge. If you need to take a break, try and find a quiet place to sit and do some simple yoga or meditation.

Ride out the temptation

With such a strong focus on socialising and drinking in December you might find yourself exposed to triggers that make you crave alcohol. This is a natural part of cutting down or giving up drinking. The feelings may be strong, but they are only feelings and you can get through them. Distractions can be helpful. You could get stuck into a puzzle or go for a walk in the park. If you do drink, try alternating between alcohol and non alcoholic drinks or space them out to control your intake.

Be kind to yourself

If you do have a drink this Christmas or drink more than you intended, don’t stress too much about it. Lapses and setbacks are totally normal so treat yourself with kindness.

Get support

Remember that support is still available throughout December. You can talk to one of our friendly webchat advisors confidentially on our website. They will be able to give you advice and also point you in the right direction if you want to get more support.

If you’re dependent on alcohol or you think you might be, it’s important to get medical advice before stopping or changing your drinking habits. If you are already in treatment you can reach out to your recovery worker for a little extra support

With You has a host of advice on its website. Anyone concerned about their own or someone else’s drinking can also talk anonymously to a trained advisor via our online webchat. Just go to www.wearewithyou.org.uk.