New campaign calls for ‘drink free days’

Public Health England and Drinkaware have launched a new campaign ‘Drink Free Days’, encouraging people to cut down and take a break from drinking

A YouGov poll has found that one in five of UK adults are drinking above the chief medical officer’s low-risk drinking guidelines and more than two thirds of these say they would find cutting down on their drinking harder to do than one or more other lifestyle changes – improving their diet, exercising more, or reducing their smoking, if they were smokers.

Working together for the first time, Public Health England and alcohol education charity Drinkaware have jointly launched a new campaign ‘Drink Free Days’ to help people cut down on the amount of alcohol they are regularly drinking.

The campaign will be encouraging middle-aged drinkers to use the tactic of taking more days off from drinking as a way of reducing their health risks from alcohol.

The more alcohol people drink, the greater their risk of developing a number of serious, potentially life-limiting, health conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as seven types of cancer.

Regular drinking also increases the number of calories consumed and can contribute to weight gain and obesity. Evidence from behavioural science suggests that simple and easy ways of helping people to change their behaviour are the most effective, which is why Drinkaware and PHE have chosen to focus on Drink Free Days.

The RCGP has welcomed the new public awareness campaign; Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

“Any form of substance misuse can have serious, negative consequences on our patients’ health and wellbeing. Alcohol intake has been linked to a range of serious, chronic diseases including liver disease, heart disease, diabetes, dementia and some cancers.

“GPs are not killjoys, and although there is not completely safe level of alcohol intake, the upper drinking limits are set for a reason, and we would encourage everyone to try and stick to limiting their intake to a maximum of 14 units a week, with at least two alcohol-free days every week.

“It’s always good to see balanced public awareness campaigns being launched to encourage patients to take note of how much they drink and, in turn, make sensible lifestyle choices that could drastically improve their health and wellbeing.”

Behavioural change

Pre-campaign research also found that the concept resonated strongly with people and was seen as clear to follow, positive and achievable.

This new partnership between Public Health England and Drinkaware is a fresh and bold step in our work to reduce alcohol harm. PHE’s One You digital platform has a strong track record on encouraging behaviour change; Drinkaware is an independent educational charity with an extensive reach to the key audiences. Working together to help communicate the message that having drink free days will reduce the risks to your health is the first move in what we hope will be a long-term partnership.

A dedicated website provides all the information, resources and apps to help support people, including the One You Drink Free Days app and Drinkaware’s Drink Compare Calculator.


YouGov Survey

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov. YouGov interviewed 8,906 UK adults aged 18 to 85 online between May 14 and June 5, 2018. This included a subset of 1,847 adults who drank over 14 units in the last week. Data has been weighted to be representative of the UK adult population according to gender, age, social grade and region.

The proportion of adults drinking above the lower risk guidelines

Research shows that middle-aged drinkers are more likely to be drinking more (above the 14 units lower risk guidelines) than the general population: Adult Survey for England 2016 – Adult Health Trends (table 10).

Campaign evaluation

PHE and Drinkaware will separately undertake full independent evaluations and peer review processes.

The public health burden of alcohol

Evidence review: this PHE review looks at the impact of alcohol on the public health and the effectiveness of alcohol control policies.

Alcohol consumption: advice on low-risk drinking

UK Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines on how to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level.

Drink Free Days app

The Drink Free Days app is a simple and easy way to track the days you drink alcohol and the days you don’t.

One You

Launched in March 2016, One You from Public Health England is the first nationwide programme to support adults in making simple changes that can have a huge influence on their health, could help prevent diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease and reduce risk of suffering a stroke or living with dementia, disability and frailty in later life. It aims to inform, energise and engage millions of adults, especially those in the 40 to 60 ‘middle-aged’ group, to make changes to improve their own health by eating well, moving more, drinking less and quitting smoking. One You also provides information on free health checks and how people can reduce their stress levels and sleep better. 

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