Men and Drinking

The gender issue around healthy choices

Men are less likely to support a partner’s healthy drinking plan than vice versa, research has suggested. This could be bad news for anyone struggling to stick with their New Year’s resolutions, but also worth being aware of in terms of health promotion and education all year round.

Employee health and wellbeing – supporting people not to fall off the healthy behaviour “wagon”

How are you doing with those New Year’s Resolutions? A distant memory? Or can you be pleased with yourself for having stuck it out this far? If some are to be believed, for most of us by the time we get to April, those best laid healthy living and post-festive detoxing plans (such as Cancer Research UK’s Dryathlon) have already been quietly dropped weeks ago. And, according to the charity Drinkaware, there can be a gender element to this, too. Not because men or women are any more or less determined than each other, especially when it comes to alcohol, but because men tend to be less likely to support their partner’s healthy drinking plan.

Bad influence

Despite the vital role spouses and partners play in supporting each other, the charity’s research has concluded that, in couples where both people drink above the low-risk guidelines, only three in five (57%) said that, if their partner wanted to cut down, they would also drink less to help them. In many couples where both members were drinking above the guidelines, it was men who were the bad influence, it also found. The study found that more than a quarter (26%) of women were concerned about the effects of alcohol on their partner’s health, compared to 21% of men. More than a quarter (29%) of women also said they’d drink less if it weren’t for their partner, almost twice the number of men saying the same (16%). A third of men (33%) said they were more likely to suggest one more drink when their partner might think of stopping, whereas only 15% of women said the same thing. This was despite the fact that, when it comes to not drinking, working as a couple can help in the long run, the charity argued. A third (35%) said providing moral support and encouragement to their partner would help them keep their alcohol consumption low, and a quarter (26%) felt their partner’s moral support would help them. Drinkaware chief executive Elaine Hindal said: “We know that couples who are planning a health regime together fare better when they really support each other.”

Health promotion

What, then, is the message here for employers to take away? First, this is simply more grist to the mill when it comes to recognising that, often, it is the men who are the heavier drinkers, and therefore it may well be worth targeting your male employee population specifically when it comes to health promotion and education in this area. But, second, it may valuable to push this message – the importance of peer, partner and spouse support when it comes to sustaining healthier habits, especially cutting back on or cutting out alcohol. It can, of course, be difficult if your partner has given up and you don’t want to join them. And it’s certainly not the job of an employer to be wading and trying to give an employee direction in this scenario. But it is worthwhile to be helping an employee recognise the value of “being in it together”; how it can be an important factor in ensuring a New Year’s resolution becomes, in time, a permanent lifestyle change.

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Posted in Events,Occupational health by OH Assist on the 10th April 2017

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