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15 Jan 2018

How Three in five hit the bottle to cope with daily life

By Emma Birchley, Sky News Correspondent

Alcohol is being used as a crutch to cope with the stress of daily life by nearly three in five adults in the UK, new figures have revealed.

The research looked at drinking patterns 18 to 75-year-olds and found that 38% had drunk in the past year to forget their problems, 58% to help them cope with the pressures of day-to-day life, 47% to cheer themselves up and 41% to deal with anxiety or depression.

It comes as no surprise to Laura Willoughby, who set up the mindful drinking movement Club Soda in 2015. Since then 15,000 people have joined to try to cut down or stop drinking altogether.

"Society says it's a suitable and acceptable coping mechanism... so stopping means having to unpick social norms and social myths we have learnt to accept."

For Laura, the decision was made to give up drinking five-and-a-half years ago after realising how reliant she had become on it as a way of coping, particularly while in a job she hated.

"If you continually try and push the problem into the background, it doesn't go away, it just stays there for another day so actually rather than drinking it's about saying I have to deal with my anxiety, my mental health, my stress and make it better."

The study was carried out by YouGov alongside the charity Drinkaware.

Its chief executive Elaine Hindal said the problem lies in the fact people reward themselves at the end of a hard day with a drink.

"Of course, that first drink does help lower inhibition... You may feel more relaxed, more confident, but regularly using alcohol as a prop in that way is a particular concern.

"What people might often not realise is that alcohol is not only associated with lower rates of good mental health but also with a whole number of diseases with our physical health as well... cardio vascular disease, certain types of cancer or even managing our weight."

Increasingly, people are taking a look at how much they are drinking. Dry January has never been so popular - good news according to Ms Hindal.

"By the end of January you are hopefully a little bit better off, a bit more money in your wallet, you've lost a couple of pounds and you are sleeping better already."

But not everyone sees having a drink to wind down as an issue.

Shona Castles-Greene, halfway through a glass of white wine with a friend, said: "I don't think I massively use it to deal with stress but it does take the edge off after a you've had a bad day at work, but perhaps a glass or so will do."

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