Excessive alcohol consumption doesn't merely cause cancer. Drinking too much alcohol is linked to a wide range of disorders, including early death, heart disease, digestive problems, and an elevated chance of dementia.
Researchers have discovered an efficient way to persuade people to cut back on their drinking: emphasize the elevated risk of cancer that comes along with it while also making them count each and every drink.
According to the team behind the study, this specific pairing of "why to reduce" and "how to reduce" advertising can be helpful for encouraging good health in a population.
"We found that pairing information about alcohol and cancer with a particular practical action - counting their drinks - resulted in drinkers reducing the amount of alcohol they consumed," psychologist Simone Pettigrew from The George Institute for Global Health said.
Three surveys were done for the study: the first one, which was completed by 7,995 people, the second, which was completed by 4,588 of those people three weeks later, and the third, which was completed by 2,687 people three weeks later. The participants were divided into various groups and exposed to various drinking-related advertising and messages.
One combination stood out when compared to a control group: A TV advertisement associating alcohol with cancer, along with a recommendation to keep track of your drinks, was one of the most successful at persuading people to try and reduce their alcohol consumption. Additionally, it was the only combination in which participants actually cut back on their alcohol use throughout the course of the six-week period.
Some of the volunteers did try to cut back on their drinking in response to other strategies, such as urging them to set a limit and stick to it, but the strategy with the most participants in this study emerged as the obvious victor.
According to the World Health Organization, alcohol use may be responsible for as many as 7% of premature deaths globally. Raising drinkers' awareness of the health dangers is one strategy to address this issue.
Health organizations have investigated strategies to increase the cost and restrict access to alcohol, but whether or not the behavior will change in the long run will ultimately depend on individual choices.
Although it's not a strategy that will necessarily work elsewhere, it appears that counting your drinks could be one option to try if you want to cut down. In this particular study, the participants were chosen to be "broadly demographically representative of the Australian drinking public," so it's not a strategy that will necessarily work elsewhere.