Scientists Identify a Simple Strategy to Decrease Alcohol Consumption Effectively

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Discover an Effective Approach to Reduce Alcohol Consumption: Emphasize the Heightened Cancer Risk Linked to Drinking and Combine it with Tracking Every Drink.

In a 2021 study, researchers found that the combination of ‘why to reduce’ (highlighting health risks) and ‘how to reduce’ messaging, particularly by counting drinks, proved instrumental in promoting better health in a population.

Beyond the association with cancer, excessive alcohol consumption is linked to various issues such as premature death, heart disease, digestive problems, and an increased risk of dementia.

“We found that pairing information about alcohol and cancer with a particular practical action – counting their drinks – resulted in drinkers reducing the amount of alcohol they consumed,” highlighted economist and psychologist Simone Pettigrew from The George Institute for Global Health.

The study involved three surveys with participants exposed to different advertisements and messages about drinking. The winning combination, significantly reducing alcohol consumption over six weeks, involved a TV ad linking alcohol to cancer along with a suggestion to track drink intake.

While other approaches, like encouraging a set number of drinks, prompted some participants to try and cut down, this particular combination stood out as the most effective.

“Many people don’t know that alcohol is a carcinogen,” emphasized Pettigrew. “It’s important information that drinkers should have access to. But telling people alcohol causes cancer is just part of the solution – we also need to give them ways to take action to reduce their risk.”

Worldwide, alcohol consumption is attributed to as much as 7 percent of premature deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Raising awareness of health risks associated with drinking is a crucial step in addressing this global problem.

While various strategies have been considered, including making alcohol less accessible and more expensive, individual choices will play a pivotal role in long-term behavioral shifts around alcohol.

This study focused on participants broadly representative of the Australian drinking public, making it essential to explore diverse approaches. Still, the evidence suggests that counting drinks could be a practical option for those aiming to reduce alcohol consumption.

“There are limited resources available for alcohol harm-reduction campaigns, so it’s important to find out which messages resonate best to ensure they have the best chance of working,” stressed Pettigrew.

For a more detailed exploration, the research was published in Addictive Behaviors.