Find Ways to Enjoy Alcohol without Damaging Health

The stress of the coronavirus pandemic may have caused some people to increase their alcohol consumption. Efforts need to be made in society as a whole to reduce the number of people whose health is damaged by excessive drinking.

The number of deaths from alcoholic liver diseases exceeded 6,000 in 2021, as much as a 10% increase from the pre-pandemic year of 2019. While some people have reduced their alcohol consumption by refraining from drinking parties, it is believed that the rise is due to the spread of “drinking at home” and the fact that some people have become habitual drinkers.

Many of them may have turned to alcohol because they felt lonely due to the increase in telecommuting or because they were worried about their finances.

Continued excessive drinking can lead to hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer, some of which can be fatal.

Although the overall consumption of alcohol is on the decline, the percentage of people who drink excessively to the point of causing lifestyle-related diseases has not improved. The increase in the number of women who do so is particularly worrisome.

When people become addicted to alcohol, they cannot control the amount they drink. It is also important for people around them not to take the situation lightly and — when they recognize that someone has a problem — to seek help from medical institutions and support groups.

The problem of drinking is not limited to personal health; it also has a significant impact on society. It has been pointed out that the problem is linked to domestic violence as well as drunk driving accidents.

Hopefully the central government, medical organizations and the alcoholic beverage industry, among others, will work together to raise awareness of the negative effects of drinking.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is preparing guidelines on drinking. It has said that the guidelines will indicate the appropriate amount of alcohol to drink according to age, gender and physical constitution, and will be used to prevent excessive drinking.

Similar guidelines are already in use in Britain, South Korea and other countries, and there is an urgent need in Japan to compile such guidelines as soon as possible. In addition to the appropriate amounts and risks, it is important to provide specific measures such as what to do if you or someone close to you is unable to stop drinking.

It is also essential to educate the younger generation. With the relaxation of restrictions imposed due to the pandemic, there will be an increase in the number of drinking parties at the beginning of the fiscal year. Accidents are more likely to occur among the younger generations, who have less experience with drinking, so caution is needed.

In a civil lawsuit filed by the parents of a Kindai University student who died of acute alcohol intoxication after a drinking party, the district court ordered former university students and others participating in the party to pay damages. A settlement has been reached with the university, which promised to take thorough measures to prevent a recurrence.

The parents said that they were eagerly hoping for a society in which no lives will ever be lost again due to alcohol drinking.

How can people enjoy drinking alcohol while maintaining their health? It is vital for each member of the public to know the amount appropriate for them and to remember to be considerate of others.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 12, 2023)