health

"I'm really worried". 8 women get honest about how much they really drink.

When a doctor asks how much you drink, they’ll nod at whatever answer you give them.

And then they’ll double it.

It’s called the “alcohol multiplier”, and decades of research suggests that the average patient will downplay their alcohol consumption, either because they genuinely don’t keep track, or for fear of judgement from their GP.

I wonder, though, if we tell each other the truth.

When a friend remarks that she had too much to drink on Friday night, did she have three glasses or 14?

When another says she has a drink with dinner, is that one standard unit, or closer to a full bottle?

What is a ‘normal’ amount of alcohol consumption, and what happens when what’s ‘normal’ also look a lot like a problem with alcohol?

I spoke to eight millennial women about their alcohol habits, and here’s what I discovered.

Your body after one year without alcohol. Post continues. 

Harriet, 25

“I have upwards of five drinks a night. Based on that, I’d say I easily drink somewhere around 40 standard drinks a week. I do worry about how much I drink… especially right now.”

Daiyu, 25

“I’m very much a binge drinker – I only drink when I go out and I very rarely have anything to drink when I get home. I think this is probably because I grew up in a house full of alcohol, but then when I was 13 my parents both had to quit drinking for health reasons. So I’ve seen both sides and don’t really crave a drink when I’m at home in my house. But if I go out to dinner, hells yeah.

“I probably average around 3-4 glasses of wine a week MAX. If anything I worry I don’t drink as much as my peers and probably consider myself a bit lame.”

Jennifer, 29

“I try not to drink during the week unless I am out for dinner. I pretty much only drink red wine. I probably have maximum five glasses across the week, unless there is a special occasion. However, I am currently in competition for athletics, so not drinking much at all (1-2 glasses a week max).

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“With drinking, I worry about getting dehydrated with so much training. I also worry about drinking ageing me and getting wrinkles.”

Ana, 25

“I don’t drink at all during the week, only when I go out.

“When I do drink, my bank account tells me I probably have 8-10 drinks – all or nothing. I wish when I went out I could restrict it to 4-6 but things always get out of hand.”

Fiona, 26

“Not every night – I rarely have a drink just because normally I drink when I’m going out. If I didn’t have a dinner or an event on, I wouldn’t drink at all. If I’ve got a dinner/casual events, I’d say six standard drinks over the week, if I’ve got a ‘night out’, I’d drink at least 10 standard drinks in one night.

“I used to drink white wine for my going out drink, which changed my behaviour and I’d often wake up the next day feeling awful. Now I mainly drink gin and am happy with the amount I drink.”

Louise, 22

“I usually drink one glass of wine with dinner on Mondays and Thursdays. I usually go out on Friday, so it’ll be 7-8 glasses (vodka lime soda). I’d say I have about two glasses of wine on Saturday (If I’m not hungover).

“That’s an estimated 10 drinks a week… I’m shook.

“Recently I’ve started to worry because I’ve noticed some effects on my health which is really scary. It feels like I’m getting old.”

Yamini, 28

“I’ve become pretty good at reserving it for Friday and Saturday nights. I used to drink a lot and most nights but getting older I’m finding that even 1-2 drinks will make me feel crap (I get so stressed about being hungover at work that I can’t sleep).

“I also get stressed about drinking with people that I work with, because it usually escalates quite quickly and I don’t want that to impact how people think of me, or what they think of my ability to get my job done.

“On the weekends I usually drink a lot – last Friday I drank a bottle of wine and three ciders to myself. I reckon I could easily have anywhere between 15-25 drinks a week – all contained within two nights.

LISTEN: Why Maz Compton doesn’t drink anymore. Post continues. 

“I always worry about how much I drink on a Sunday night because I feel like I’ve wasted a weekend. Usually I’m still feeling the effects by Monday. I never sleep on Sunday nights because I’m trying to squeeze in as much of the weekend as I can after I’ve wasted it. It’s gotten to the point where I have to write a list on Friday of everything that I want to get done, or start declining invitations from certain friends so I avoid two big nights in a row.

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“This is vain but I also worry about the physical effects and effect on weight. I told myself last weekend that this was my last weekend until the Hens party because it makes me feel puffy and bloated and just not looking bright. I feel like I work so hard during the week (skincare, drinking water, going to the gym) and then I get to the weekend and I essentially go crazy. I try so hard to do everything because I don’t want to miss out.”

Britt, 27

“On average, I drink four nights per week. So probably about 12 drinks a week. One or two per night on midweek occasions and a few on the weekend. More if there is a social event.

“I’m aware that if I drink every night it’s because life is particularly challenging.

“I’m conscious my husband will have a drink every day. It’s only one or two when he’s cooking/eating dinner a lot of the time, but I’m sure a medical person would say he should have a night off.”

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According to Australia’s national guidelines for alcohol consumption, “drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces your risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over a lifetime.”

To reduce the risk of alcohol related-injury, the guidelines suggest women drink no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion.

A survey conducted in 2018 by the Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) found that the average Australian is a “moderate drinker”, meaning they have nine or fewer standard drinks a week.

But does that number mean you’re… okay?

It depends.

A study published in 2018 by Lancet examined the effect of alcohol on 600,000 people, and found that those who drank more than the equivalent of about six glasses of wine a week had increased risk of stroke, heart failure, fatal hypertensive disease, fatal aortic aneurysm and heart disease.

They did, however, acknowledge that alcohol effects people differently – so a simple number won’t necessarily be the best way to measure whether you have a ‘problem’ or not.

Signs that you might have a problem with alcohol, according to Reach Out, include:

  • Drinking alcohol, or thinking about it, first thing in the morning
  • Worsening relationships with family and friends
  • Sweating when you don’t drink
  • Feeling nauseous and being unable to sleep when you don’t drink
  • Finding that you need to drink more and more alcohol to get drunk

If you are struggling with alcohol or substance abuse, help is available. For support, please call:

Counselling Online on 1800 888 236
Alcoholics Anonymous on 1300 222 222.

Tags: alcohol , drinking , features , health
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