Limit alcohol adverts during winter months, says expert

Study finds that alcohol abuse is more widespread in cold, dark weather

Man drinking a pint.
(Image credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

The UK should “strongly consider” placing restrictions on alcohol advertising during the winter months, an addiction expert has said, after a new study found a clear link between cold, dark climates and alcohol abuse.

The study, published in liver science journal Hepatology, compared data from the World Health Organization and the World Meteorological Organization to assess the impact of climate on alcohol consumption.

Researchers found that “as average temperature and hours of sunlight decreased, the total alcohol intake per person, the percentage of the population that drinks alcohol, and the incidence of binge drinking all increased”, The Independent reports.

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Ramon Bataller, associate director of the Pittsburgh Liver Research Centre and a senior author on the study, said: “This is the first study that systematically demonstrates that… in colder areas and areas with less sun, you have more drinking and more alcoholic cirrhosis.”

He added that “people with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism should maybe avoid living in a very cold place as they will probably drink more”.

Dr Peter McCann, a specialist in drug and alcohol addiction at Castle Craig Hospital, said the study had implications for the UK, which experiences fewer than eight hours of daylight per day at the height of winter.

“Stricter laws on alcohol pricing are surely justified when we consider the devastating combined effect of low sunlight and cheaper alcohol on consumption,” he said.

The results of the study presented “strong evidence” for introducing extra safeguards around alcohol during the winter months, including limits on alcohol advertising, said McCann.

He concluded that restrictions on advertising alcohol products during the coldest and darkest months should be “strongly considered”.

However, Scottish broadsheet The Herald notes that “retailers and drink producers are likely to be resistant to any suggestion of ban in the winter months, covering the lucrative Christmas and New Year periods”.

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