Alcohol: I drink therefore I am

New guidelines warn Britons to drastically reduce their boozing. But is a life without liquor worth living? Hell no, says John Walsh

Shambling thirstily fridgewards this morning, in search of enough pineapple juice to quench the Kalahari-like aridity of my tongue after the excess of the night before – following an awards ceremony, I'd celebrated by up-ending a bottle of Puligny Montrachet into the engraved glass vase I'd won – I heard about the new idea, put forward by Oxford University, about recommended levels of alcohol consumption.

Its research, published in the British Medical Journal, suggests that, if British people adjusted their daily alcohol intake, it could save 4,600 lives. The only trouble is, the adjustment they recommend is to half a unit a day. That's a quarter of a pint of beer, or a third of a glass of wine. Holy mackerel.

Can you imagine how boring life would become if we took this seriously? Popping into the Builders' Arms after work for "just a quarter of Timothy Taylors, thanks, Sam". Imagine the Bridget Jones generation, grown a little older, meeting for shrieky gossip over 50ml (a standard glassful is 175ml) of Chardonnay. Would you want to end your busy day with teeny-tiny pipette-sips of wine in the evening?

The truth is, few people pay much heed to the government's "recommended" daily alcohol intake. I've never met anyone who thinks (or drinks) in "units". I suspect a self-policing gene tells you it's unwise to have more than three pints after work, to floor "nightcaps" of Scotch during the week, or to mess with red Burgundy at lunchtime unless you want to punctuate the teatime hour with loud snores. Department of Health guidelines operate mostly as a nagging finger in your consciousness, a background rumble of disapproval that's audible when you're having your glass refilled just one more time at a party.

There's evidence, though, that this is a generational matter. When we read that there's a rise in hospital admissions attributable to alcohol, we can be sure that most of the admissions are in the 30- and 40-something age groups. According to new figures from the Drinkaware organisation, young people haven't inherited their parents' compulsion to get regularly rat-arsed. Since 2003, there's been a 16 per cent decrease in the number of British 11-to-15-year-olds who have tried alcohol. And fewer of them are happy to tolerate their friends' fascination with cheap lager and supermarket vodka.

They're a generation who'll probably take seriously the words "Please Drink Responsibly" emblazoned on the side of a bottle of Jack Daniels. The rest of us, I'm afraid, will continue in our folly, laughing at "guidelines", and deciding that a life in which we all consume no more than five grams of alcohol a day would be a life strangely denuded of texture and excitement.

News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
United States President Barack Obama, right, uses actor Keegan-Michael Key from Key & Peele to play the part of 'Luther, President Obama's anger translator'
video
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions