How many times do we top our glasses up as we cook, eat and do the dishes? What does moderation even mean? And when does our drink after the kids go to bed become a problem?
Drinking may in fact be more of a problem than we’d like to admit. According to the Government of Canada, drinking alcohol was the third-highest risk factor for global disease burden in 2010, moving up from being ranked sixth in 1990. It was also the top risk factor for poor health in people ages 15 to 49. Statistics Canada defines heavy (or risky) drinking for women as having four or more drinks per occasion, at least once a month for the past year. Risky drinking is on the rise among women, especially those age 35 and up. In 2013, 56 percent of women reported binge drinking at least once in the past year, a 12-percent jump from 2004.
And according to a 2015 study in the British Medical Journal, the more hours you work, the more you drink. Researchers reviewed data from more than 300,000 participants and found that those who work 48 hours or more a week are more likely to drink at dangerous levels than those who work fewer hours. The study defined risky drinking as more than 14 drinks for women and more than 21 for men. It found no difference between socio-economic groups—fast-food workers would see the same effects as bankers.
So what are the recommendations? Guidelines developed by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) and adopted across the country recommend that women shouldn’t have more than two drinks per day and fewer than 10 a week (for men, it’s three drinks per day and 15 per week). The guidelines also advise having several non-drinking days per week. Catherine Paradis, senior research and policy analyst at the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) in Ottawa, recommends having two dry days between boozy ones to “minimize tolerance and habit formation.” The CCSA estimates that alcohol-related deaths per year would be reduced by approximately 4,600 if all Canadians drank within these guidelines.