Think Before You Drink: How Alcohol Consumption Can Affect Your Health
Sociologist and alcohol policy expert shares his top tips for understanding the physical and mental health risks of alcohol consumption, as well as its role in American society.
The holidays are here, and many Americans are getting into the holiday spirit with alcohol spirits. According to a recent study, the average American doubles their alcohol intake between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and about 69 percent of people are more likely to overindulge during the holiday season compared to any other time of year. How did alcohol consumption become so normalized within our society — and what are the physical and mental health effects of consuming (and over-consuming) alcohol this holiday season and beyond?
For answers to these questions and many more, we turn to sociologist, alcohol policy expert, and Boston University School of Public Health professor Dr. David Jernigan. Dr. Jernigan is best known for his action-research approach to the issue of alcohol advertising, marketing, and promotion and its influence on young people. His work has led to better advertising regulations and a clearer understanding of the evolving structure of the alcohol industry. Earlier this December, he took to Reddit to discuss alcohol consumption culture, the effects and consequences of underage drinking, national and global alcohol problems and policies, and more. The top takeaways from his conversation highlight important studies, tips, and resources for anyone looking to understand the overarching effects of alcohol before reaching for their next glass.
1) Adverse effects of alcohol on the body depend on an individual’s drinking patterns and the amount consumed.
Dr. Jernigan discusses how different types of alcohol don’t produce different health outcomes when it comes to risk of disease.
2) America’s minimum legal drinking age saves young lives.
Dr. Jernigan myth-busts the common misconception that America’s legal drinking age of 21-years-old leads to higher rates of drinking among young people.
3) There is no safe time to consume alcohol during pregnancy.
Dr. Jernigan describes health risks associated with drinking alcohol while pregnant, or trying to get pregnant.
4) Alcohol causes the most damage in terms of health and social impact compared to other drugs.
Dr. Jernigan explains how tobacco kills the most people but alcohol causes the most damage, according to a UK study.
5) Youth in America today drink less alcohol than the youth of previous generations.
However, Dr. Jernigan also describes that binge drinking is still an issue faced by many young people.
6) There is a link between young people’s exposure to alcohol marketing and subsequent drinking behavior.
Studies have also established associations between youth exposure to specific brand marketing and consumption of those brands.
7) Alcohol home delivery can be harmful.
Dr. Jernigan highlights how home delivery services make it easier for young people to access and purchase alcohol.
8) Colleges and universities can take steps to address alcohol issues.
Dr. Jernigan points to several resources and strategies for reducing alcohol consumption and abuse on higher-ed campuses.
9) State monopolies and alcoholic beverage consumption are related.
Dr. Jernigan explains how alcohol monopolies are beneficial from a public health perspective.
10) America’s drinking culture is healthier compared to other wealthy nations.
Given that alcohol is a luxury product, Dr. Jernigan compares the United States to other wealthy cultures — and makes the case that America is actually a lot better off health-wise than its wealthy nation peers.
For additional commentary by Boston University experts, follow us on Twitter at @BUexperts. Follow Dr. Jernigan on Twitter at @dhjalcohol and BU’s School of Public Health at @BUSPH. For more information on Jernigan’s work on youth and alcohol marketing, visit www.camy.org. To learn more about Jernigan and collaborator’s current projects, visit www.cityhealth.org. The research team aims to encourage the largest cities in the US to adopt policies that are protective of health, including ones around safer alcohol sales.