It’s probably the booziest time of the year. Supermarkets selling alcohol at knock down prices, Christmas parties, offers at pubs and bars, it’s a lot to take in, but do you really think about how much you’re drinking and the effects it could have on your health?

Public Health England recently published a comprehensive review of the evidence on alcohol harm and its impact in England. It examines alcohol’s health, social and economic impact, and the effectiveness of actions in reducing its harms.

Alcohol is now more affordable and people are drinking more than they did in the past. Between 1980 and 2008, there was a 42% increase in the sale of alcohol. Despite recent declines in sales, as a nation we are still drinking too much, with over 1 million hospital admissions relating to alcohol annually.

The economic burden of health, social and economic alcohol-related harm is substantial, with estimates placing the annual cost to be between 1.3% and 2.7% of annual GDP. Alcohol related deaths affect predominantly young and middle aged people; as a result alcohol is a leading cause of years of working life lost in England.

The review provides national and local policy makers with the latest evidence to identify those policies which will best prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm. It details policies that impact directly on the environment in which alcohol is sold and marketed, including its price, availability and advertising along with policies directed at people most at risk.

Other findings from the review include:

  • most adults in England drink alcohol – more than 10 million people are drinking at levels that increase the risk of harming their health
  • 5% of the heaviest drinkers account for one third of all alcohol consumed
  • alcohol is the leading cause of death among 15 to 49 year olds and heavy alcohol use has been identified as a cause of more than 200 health conditions
  • alcohol caused more years of life lost to the workforce than from the 10 most common cancers combined – in 2015 there were 167,000 years of working life lost
  • the evidence strongly supports a range of policies that are effective at reducing harm to public health while at the same time reducing health inequalities – reducing the affordability of alcohol is the cost effective way of reducing alcohol harm

If you’re concerned about how much you’re drinking over the festive period – why not take a reality check and use alcohol charity Alcohol Concerns’ Impact calculator. You could also sign up to Dry January to help yourself and others by fundraising.

More information about the effects of drinking and how to cut down is available on the NHS website.