In a series of nine surveys conducted over the course of 2022, the global analytics and advisory firm Gallup has discerned a notable trend: the recognition of the real harm of alcohol has reached an unprecedented level. Presently, 39% of people in the United States acknowledge the detrimental health consequences linked to the consumption of small amounts of alcohol.

Through nine surveys conducted over 22 years, global analytics and advice firm Gallup has found that the number of people who recognize the real harm of already small amounts of alcohol use is at its highest yet.

39% of U.S. Americans now recognize the health harm of low-dose alcohol use. This marks an increase of 11 percentage points since 2018.

However, almost half of US adults still falsely believe that ‘moderate’ alcohol consumption poses no harm to their health. 10% even believe that alcohol consumption possesses health benefits. These figures however have shown a slight decrease over the past five years.

Recognition of the real harm of alcohol
39% of U.S. Americans now recognizes the health harm of low-dose alcohol use – this marks an increase of 11 percentage-points since 2018.

Growing recognition of the real extent of alcohol harm

The five year timespan between 2018 and 2022 is generally too short a period to attribute this change in attitude to a specific event. However, it is important to note that one event that did take place was the publishing of research findings that clearly showed that no level of alcohol was safe for one’s health.

No Amount of Alcohol Is Good for the Heart

The myth has persisted for a long time that certain types of alcohol, or certain levels of alcohol use bring some health benefits. This myth has been driven and perpetuated by alcohol companies and research they have funded for decades. But independent scientists have revealed that this ‘research’ is built on weak scientific methodology and other flaws.

Rigorous studies and analysis conducted by theWorld Health Organization (WHO), as well as the World Heart Federation (WHF) has established, beyond all doubt that no amount of alcohol is safe concerning cancer risk, or good for the heart.

For example, a landmark policy brief by the WHF listed the harms alcohol causes to the cardiovascular system.

Alcohol products harm the heart

The studies included in the brief show that even small amounts of alcohol can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, including:

  • Coronary disease,
  • Stroke,
  • Heart failure,
  • Hypertensive heart disease,
  • Cardiomyopathy,
  • Atrial fibrillation, and
  • Aneurysm.

The portrayal of alcohol as necessary for a vibrant social life has diverted attention from the real effects of alcohol in communities and societies around the world, as have the frequent and widely publicised claims that moderate [alcohol use], such as a glass of red wine a day, can offer protection against cardiovascular disease,” said Monika Arora, Member of the WHF Advocacy Committee and co-author of the brief, as per the WHF website.

These claims are at best misinformed and at worst an attempt by the alcohol industry to mislead the public about the danger of their product.”

Monika Arora, member of the WHF Advocacy Committee, co-author of the brief

The brief also makes special mention of the social inequity of alcohol harm, and how alcohol contributes to increasing inequity in our society.

Another example is the WHO statement in the beginning of 2023. The World Health Organisation has established that the supposed health benefits of ‘moderate’ alcohol consumption are a myth.

Through the publication of their findings in The Lancet Public Health journal WHO established the scientific consensus that there is no safe or healthy amount of alcohol use.

Identifying a “safe” level of alcohol consumption requires valid scientific evidence that demonstrates that there is no risk of illness or injury linked with alcohol below a certain consumption level.

Biggest change in recognition of health harm from low-dose alcohol use among youth and women

The youth in the United States shows the most marked shift in recognition of the harm caused by alcohol. The shift in understanding is largest among young adults aged 18 to 34 years, amounting to 18 percentage points.

The change in middle-aged adults is equal to 13 percentage points. Unfortunately, there is virtually no change among those aged 55 years and older.

Biggest rise in recognition of alcohol harm among young adults
The most remarkable shift in recognition of the harm caused by alcohol has occurred among young adults aged 18 to 34 years, amounting to 18 percentage points.

The study also found that the change in understanding is also more apparent among women than men. 41% of women view even low amounts of alcohol consumption as harmful, while only 35% of men view it as harmful. Higher recognition of the real harm due to alcohol is a protective factor for women given the fact that alcohol harms women disproportionately and is growing among women.

This alarming trend has been revealed as result of new data from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The specific deaths due to alcohol the researchers counted for their study include alcohol poisoning, gastritis, liver diseases, and others. They did not include unintentional injuries and homicides due to alcohol.

Movendi International has already reported on the harmful trend of rising alcohol use among US women in 2021. This trend – deliberately driven by alcohol companies – is leading to severe consequences in terms of alcohol harm in women.

Women’s bodies process alcohol differently than men, making women more susceptible to organ damage and diseases caused by alcohol. 

Since women are also more prone to using alcohol to cope, it affects their mental health more negatively.

Health Impact Perceptions of Tobacco and Marijuana in Relation to Alcohol

The survey also shows most adults believe that alcohol is less harmful as tobacco and other nicotine products. Three in four believe that cigarettes are very harmful to their health. Fewer perceive chewing tobacco and cigars as harmful. Only 30% see that alcohol is as harmful as tobacco.

More U.S. Americans than ever are recognizing the real harm of alcohol. This is a positive trend and important opportunity for decision-makers to take action to protect more people from the harm caused by alcohol companies in the United States. As public perception of the real effects of alcohol align more and more with scientific research, there will be more support for the best alcohol policy solutions when they are introduced.

Source Website: Gallup