Myths about drinking

What are common myths about drinking?

Alcohol is good for stress

Drinking in moderation may have some benefits such as helping you relax or feel more sociable. However, daily drinking, even in moderation, can become a habit and have harmful long-term effects.

For example, as we age, we become more sensitive to the toxic effects of alcohol on the brain. We can no longer break down and excrete alcohol from the body as quickly therefore can be at risk of falls or injuries.

If you are looking to de-stress there are plenty of ways to do this without alcohol. Why not try out a new hobby? A local yoga class or learning more about mindfulness and meditation could help you to relax. You could also try out social activities that don’t involve alcohol, like team sports, book clubs etc.

Drink Wise Age Well offers activated and courses in our 5 local areas that you can join.

I like drinking – do I have to give it up?

No, you don’t have to give up drinking. Most of the adult population drink alcohol and many do so without causing themselves harm. However, it’s important that you are able to make informed choices about how much you drink, and when you think it could be causing you more risk.

On an individual level it’s important to consider how much you drink. Ask yourself if it is having a negative impact on your relationships, your health and wellbeing, and your quality of life. If the answer is yes, you might want to start making some healthier choices about your alcohol use. Try a drink checker to see what your drinking means for you.

And remember, as we get older we may no longer be able to drink the same amount as we used to. Even drinking within the recommended guidelines may affect us more than we think.

 It’s too late for me to change

Actually, you might be surprised to hear that as people age they are more likely to make positive changes.

In fact, older adults who have problems with alcohol, and who seek help, do better than any other age group at making positive changes to their drinking behaviour.

Tolerance increases with age

Alcohol tolerance – meaning the amount we can drink before it affects us – generally decreasesin older people. This is due to the reduction in body fluid and the increase in body fat. Therefore, Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is higher. This increased concentration in the body leads to increased sensitivity to alcohol. This can make you more likely to lose your balance or become disorientated.

Alcohol affects men and women the same

At all ages women are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol, and this difference may be more marked for older women. On average, women have smaller bodies, a higher percentage of body fat and consequently they break down alcohol more slowly than men.

Alcohol helps me to sleep

Many people believe that a drink in the evening helps them sleep.

It may certainly feel like you have fallen asleep faster, but even a couple of drinks can interfere with the normal sleep process.

Deep sleep is really important for our body to restore itself, but when we drink our ‘deep sleep’ is disrupted and becomes shorter as the alcohol wears off.

This means you will probably wake up feeling more exhausted or, worse, wake in the middle of the night with your mind racing.

When you drink more than usual, you may have to get up in the night to go to the toilet. Because alcohol is a diuretic, your body will also lose extra fluid through sweat too, making you dehydrated. Additionally, when you drink your muscles relax making you snore more loudly.

 Alcohol keeps me warm and cosy

Alcohol makes blood rise to the surface. Your brain then interprets and signals, this to you as heat. As a result this means you might not be able to feel the cold. This can put you at risk of hypothermia.

This can cause particular concern if you or someone you know is struggling to heat your home during the colder winter months.

I know when I’m safe to drive

 It may feel like you know when you’re safe to drive – especially if you’ve grown up with mixed attitudes towards drink driving laws, which came into effect in 1967. However, many of the functions that we depend on to drive safely are affected when we drink alcohol, for example:

  • the brain takes longer to receive messages from the eye
  • processing information becomes more difficult
  • instructions to the body’s muscles are delayed, resulting in slower reactions
  • the risk increases as we age because our bodies are less able to process alcohol

Read more about drinking and driving