French Health Officials Warn Its Citizenry of Alcohol Consumption
In the U.S., we love our alcohol. That just goes without saying. Alcohol consumption has become a regular part of our lives and such a frequent and normal occurrence that we don’t even think twice about. But as if our own country’s medical officials advising a reduction in alcohol consumption was not enough, other countries are starting to suggest that their residents cut back on alcohol consumption as well. For example, we look to France—a European nation known for fantastic wine.
In recent news, French health officials made international headlines by going on record to encourage their countrymen to cut back on wine consumption. That set a precedent since it was one of the first significant health advisements of this kind to be released in France. What can we learn from that? If European nations are starting to get on board with reducing their alcohol consumption, maybe it’s time we got a little more direct and focused in our own efforts to reduce heavy drinking as well.
News from France
The “Santé Publique France” is the department of health for France. The Santé Publique France performed a fair amount of research in the months leading up to their proclamation on this matter, so their reasoning is not unfounded.
According to the Santé Publique France, French citizens should start following three, fundamental rules:
- The French citizenry should not consume more than two glasses of wine or alcoholic beverages per day.
- They should not consume more than ten alcoholic drinks per week.
- They should not consume alcohol every day. They should leave days in their week when no alcohol consumption occurs.
The Santé Publique France went on to report that alcohol is linked to more than 41,000 deaths in France every year. Alcohol is involved in about 88,000 deaths in the U.S. every year—more than double France’s number. But the U.S. has a much larger population than France does. The United States loses 88,000 people to alcohol-related causes every year in a country of 327.2 million people. France loses 41,000 people to alcohol-related causes every year in a country of 67.19 million. Clearly, the per capita alcohol-related death rate in France is much higher.
According to Viet Nguyen-Thanh, the head of the Santé Publique France, “It’s about 10.5 million adults who drink too much. In any case they drink in proportions that increase the risks to their health, including cancers, high blood pressure, cerebral hemorrhage and cardiovascular diseases.”
France’s new program has, of course, been met with some degree of backlash and criticism since it was first launched. The program asks for a rather significant change in the country’s current trend of alcohol consumption. In fact, the requested changes are considered “extreme” by most countries when it comes to anticipated norms of drinking.
Again according to the Santé Publique France, 24 percent of French residents ages 18 to 75 fail to meet the criteria of at least one of the above three newly released advisements. Change is needed. And change is wanted. But there will always be critics of forward movement and progress.
Current Drinking Trends in the U.S.
To better understand alcohol consumption trends in the U.S., we look to the National Institute on Alcohol Consumption and Alcoholism. This is the organization responsible for gathering data on drinking patterns and trends across the U.S.
According to a survey done by the NIAAA, about 56.1% of Americans of the age of 18 or older consume alcohol on at least a monthly basis. As for binge drinking, about 26.9 percent of people ages 18 and older admitted to binge drinking at least once in the month prior to the survey. About 7 percent said they drank heavily in the past month.
The NIAAA also has data on incidences of alcoholism in the U.S. According to their data, about 15.1 million Americans are addicted to alcohol. At least half a million young people under the age of 17 already meet the criteria for alcohol addiction. And, as mentioned earlier, alcohol consumption is related to about 88,000 deaths in the U.S. every year.
And alcohol consumption is a burden in other ways, too. Take the economy. Every year, the United States spends about $249 billion in addressing the harm and damage done by alcohol misuse.
To me, these sound like legitimate statistics that point to a need for a reduction in alcohol consumption. How are we going to bring that about? One way would be to model our approach after what the French did. Another route would be, of course, to help those who are currently addicted to alcohol to come down off alcohol and to break free from their habit.
Alcohol has little to no health benefits, yet very significant health risks are at play when people partake in alcohol consumption. When people choose to drink—and especially when they drink to excess—they may bring on harmful effects of a physical, mental, and/or behavioral nature to themselves and others. A better approach would be to reduce consumption significantly.
A New Direction Is Needed
We need to start having serious discussions about reducing alcohol consumption in the U.S. We are long past due for such discussion, and long past due for really doing something about excessive drinking trends in the U.S. Alcohol has plagued our society long enough. It’s time we found sensible and agreeable methods for reducing alcohol consumption. People have to know the risks and dangers of excessive drinking. If we can show people why they should avoid such habits, alcohol consumption trends will drop.
Referring to the NIAAA statistics, more than 15 million people need help with a drinking problem. That’s a significant chunk of the population. We have to help them get off alcohol. If we don’t, the problem will never truly go away. But in addition to that, we have to discuss, educate, inform, recommend, and, in general, encourage others to steer clear of excessive drinking. Excessive drinking is just not worth it.
Reviewed and edited by Claire Pinelli, ICAAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP