Alcohol, Smoking and Stress

Luke 16/03/2017 3
Alcohol, Smoking and Stress

Hi guys, Luke here. How have you been?

Just how strong is the link between alcohol, smoking and stress? I’ll begin this article by supplying you with a general overview of modern living demands, this will help set the tone for the rest of the post.

General Overview

Foley (2010) writes that modern living has increased the delusion of self-importance to an individual. He writes we are desperate to seek a gourmet lifestyle despite the fact it isn’t sustainable. He claims people are more eager than ever to remain young and that the things that people want are devalued once they get them by the things they want next.

If this view is true of the country, it paints a rather grim picture! It suggests people are materialistic, self-consumed, frivolous and don’t care for things that truly matter. Morals, values etc.

I will now move on to give some statistics regarding excessive stress, smoking and alcohol consumption at a national level. First alcohol consumption: There are three types of drinking that have been identified as a cause of ill health. These are: Hazardous drinking, dependent drinking and harmful drinking. To find the defined meanings of these three types of drinking simply follow this hyperlink. The point that needs to be made here is that within the past few years there has been an increase in the amount of people that drink in these three types of ways.

In summary:

  • For women who drink hazardously (Twice over the recommended limit once a week) there was a 7% to 16% from 1998 to 2006
  • For men in the same category there was an increase from 20% to 24% within the same time period
  • For men who drink harmfully (Show clear signs of alcohol-related harm) there was a rise from 19% to 24% from 2005 to 2007, and 8% to 15% for women through the same period of time
  • For dependent drinking (people who have lost control of their drinking and have trouble withdrawing from alcohol) there has been a 24% increase between 2000 and 2007. Adult Psychiatric Morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey (NHS, 2009)

The worrying trend is that for all types of drinking that lead to ill health, there has been an increase in recent years. I want to look at why this may happen. In modern times people feel that they are having to work more and yet receive less pay. This is a cause of stress and rightly so. Alcohol is considered by many as an aid to unwind and/or relax. If the amount of stress rises in a persons life, the amount of alcohol they consume to try and counter the stress will increase. It is a vicious circle and is something that the government should look to combat at a national level. I will talk about what the government are doing to combat this later on in the article.


In summary:

  • There are around 10 million people who smoke in the UK, that is around a 6th of the population
  • 22% of adult men are smokers and 19% of adult women are smokers
  • Research suggests poorer people smoke. 14% of adults in managerial positions smoke where as 33% of adults in manual occupations smoke. (Action on Smoking and Health, 2014)

The last statistic suggests that a lack of money or a worry about where money is going to come from in order to make or maintain a living is a cause of stress on people. The following video gives reasons as to why people smoke, it also points out how advertising in years gone by have encouraged smoking. This has been extremely damaging to people as they would buy cigarettes and the nicotine within them caused people to become addicted, which essentially will kill a person over time.


In summary:

  • Work-related stress is defined as a harmful reaction that people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work. (HSE, 2013)
  • Work-related stress caused workers in Great Britain to lose 10.4 million working days in 2011/12 based on the LFS data. (HSE, 2013)

I myself have had first hand experience of what it is like to live with someone who suffers from work-related stress. The relative who suffers from the illness told me that missing days at work due to this illness only makes the illness worse. Having time off work for stress causes more stress because the person is worrying about having time off work. This is again another example of a vicious circle and is something which needs to be resolved. I will discuss later what is being done by the government to help fight the problem of stress within the UK.

I will now look at statistics concerning mental health, alcohol consumption and the smoking of cigarettes on a local level in Solihull, Birmingham.

Alcohol Consumption

In summary:

  • Around 70% of admissions to hospitals in Birmingham are alcohol related
  • Alcohol misuse has been a feature in over 500 cases of child protection from 2012
  • The cost to the economy for people missing work through alcohol abuse is £30 million (Vaughan, M, 2012)

Heartlands Hospital situated near the center of Birmingham is within an area called Bordesley Green. A key question that relates to the topic in this article is, does the geographic have an effect on the persons drinking, smoking and stress? Many people in the Bordesley Green area are out of work and they may use alcohol to get rid of their problems if only a temporary solution. From what has been in this article already, it is clear that there is a link between stress and work. Whether it be that someone is out of work and can’t find a job or whether they have a job but it stresses them out. Work is the one constant that causes stress and the variables that people may use to help relieve that stress are smoking cigarettes and the consumption of alcohol.


In summary:

  • The figures show that the overall rate for smoking attributable deaths during 2006-08 was 211.09 per 100,000 population aged 35 and over in the West Midlands, compared to 206.81 for England
  • The impact on the NHS is also evident in the volume of smoking attributable hospital admissions, which stands at almost 1,340 per 100,000 in the West Midlands compared to less than 1,266  for the whole of England (NHS, 2010)

These stats show that the average of deaths due to smoking in the West Midlands is higher than the rest of the country. Again the geographic of Birmingham and the West Midlands comes into question as the West Midlands holds a stigma that it is not a very nice place to live. If this is true, it may be a reason in itself as to why people smoke. They smoke because they are stressed and they are stressed because they can’t move out of an area they don’t like because they can’t afford to. The link between stress, work and smoking can be seen clearly in this example.


In summary:

  • An organisation called Mental Healthy did a UK regional survey in 2010 and found that although the East Midlands is the happiest place to live in the UK – the West Midlands, Wales, Northern Ireland and London fared worst

This statistic cements the idea that the geographic has an effect on the stress of an individual. Added to the stress of everyday life is the fact that a person is just not happy with where they live. Waking up everyday and having the world around you acting as a depressant is only going to add to a persons level of stress.

I will now talk about what the government is doing to help combat excessive smoking, drinking and stress.


The government have worked with the NHS to produce ‘Quit Kits’ designed to help the user quit smoking. In the kit you will find:

  • A leaflet telling you where you can get professional help
  • An addiction test to test your dependency on cigarettes
  • Examples of medication to help stop smoking
  • Celebration stickers
  • A toy designed to help keep the hands busy instead of holding a cigarette

Having reviewed the Quit Kit myself, I would say it is good and can be effective but ultimately the success of the kit comes down to how motivated the person trying to quit is. I feel that this kit partnered with one to one direct support can really help people quit smoking. If you visit this website, there are many options as to how you can quit smoking along with the Quit kit and one to one support.

Alcohol Consumption

There is an organisation backed by the government called Alcoholics Anonymous. There are branches nationwide and offer people the chance to meet with other alcoholics in small groups and discuss and share their problems and work on finding common solutions. The number for alcoholics anonymous is: 0845 769 7555.

This organisation has been around for a number of years and the fact it is still trusted by the government indicates they believe this organisation is working.

To identify if you have a problem with alcohol consumption, visit this website. It will also provide you with further information as to how you can stop.


The following website is provided by the NHS. At the bottom of that page you will find a few tips on how to deal with stress, talking about stress to your GP is one suggestion for example. Another way to help combat stress is to find support groups local to you which can be done on a search directory on the above page.

Thanks for taking the time out to read my article! Please find below my five top tips to quit smoking, decrease alcohol consumption and to relieve stress.

My Top Five Tips to Quit Smoking

  1. Do not go cold turkey! Trying to stop completely at once will not work! Reduce the amount you smoke daily until you feel ready to stop all together
  2. If you have quit for a while but then lapse and smoke a cigarette, don’t think its all over! Simply try again and remind yourself how infuriating it was when you gave in and had  cigarette last time!
  3. Quit with a friend. You can motivate and support each other along the way
  4. Find a reason to quit. Do you have kids? Second-hand smoke will effect your children and could hinder their health. If not doing it for them do it for yourself! Add years onto your life expectancy by kicking the habit
  5. Think of the benefits. Uplifted appearance, fresher breath and say goodbye to that horrible smell of cigarettes!

My Top Five Tips to Decrease Alcohol Consumption

  1. Decrease slowly, trying to go cold turkey will not end well
  2. Limit the amount of alcohol in the house. If the temptation is not there it decreases the chances of you drinking
  3. Find a reason to quit. If you have children, do you want them to be drinking like you when they are your age? set a good example
  4. Think of the money you will save. Alcohol is not cheap. Not buying it allows you to spend the money elsewhere for better purposes
  5. Realise the consequences drinking has on your health. Problems with the liver is a common problem

My Top Five Tips to Decrease Stress

  1. Take time out for yourself. If you spend a lot of time doing things for others, put yourself first for a while
  2. Find a hobby. A hobby however simple it may be can help you forget about the stress’ of life for a while
  3. Get plenty of sleep. A brain deprived of sleep will only make the feeling of stress worse
  4. Spend time around those that make you happy. A night out with friends or a night in with the kids can really uplift or relax a person suffering with stress
  5. Realise help is always on hand whether it be from friends, family or schemes set up by the government if you are looking for more professional help

Thanks again!



  1. Val 19/03/2017 at 7:38 am - Reply

    Interesting post Luke, thanks for sharing. Val x

  2. Sarah 19/03/2017 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    Great post Luke! Really in depth and well researched.

  3. Amy 06/06/2017 at 8:02 am - Reply

    Really great post! Well researched!

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