To your health?

Recent research shows that the Dutch often do not know how unhealthy alcohol actually is. We associate alcohol mainly with socializing (54%) and less with something that is unhealthy for you (27%). The Maag Lever Darm Foundation and the Dutch Cancer Society are therefore launching a knowledge campaign about the relationship between alcohol and cancer as part of the Healthy Generation. In response to this campaign, we spoke with one of the initiators of IkPas, alcohol researcher Rob Bovens.

The aim of the campaign 'On your health?' is sharing knowledge and creating awareness: drinking alcohol increases the risk of 7 types of cancer. Creating awareness is also one of the goals of IkPas. “Breaking that and habitual behaviour”, adds Rob. “No drinking alcohol for a month is an opportunity to deal with drinking patterns and to reflect on your alcohol behavior. After a break period, you decide where, with whom and how much alcohol you want to drink.”

This is what the Health Council says

We mainly think that drinking too much at once is bad, but we don't realize that the risk of certain forms of cancer increases if you drink 1 glass of alcohol per day. It is not for nothing that the Health Council changed the alcohol advice in 2015 to 'don't drink alcohol or in any case no more than one glass a day'. Rob: “The Health Council has no blinders on. She's not telling everyone to stop drinking, they're offering an escape. Alcohol has been made too important. Drinking alcohol is part of our culture and with this in mind the maximum number of drinks has been set at 1 per day.”

Entrenched drinking habits

That it is in our culture is evident from the many reasons and occasions we can think of to raise a glass. “If you look at the course of an average human life, you can think of a lot of 'cheers moments'”, says Rob. “From your birthday and getting your driver's license to graduating and getting a promotion. Anything that we think is a milestone can be celebrated with alcohol. Take the wedding party alone, for example. Before the actual wedding takes place, dozens of 'celebratory moments' have already been passed in which people drink. Think of trying on the bridal clothing, choosing the rings, having a test hair measured and celebrating the bachelor party. All those moments are made equally important and connected to alcohol. As a result, drinking habits become increasingly entrenched.”

Did you know that Rob's annual survey of participants shows that they drink an average of 18 glasses of alcohol per week before IkPas? A solid number that equates to 'excessive drinking' and a drinking pattern that is very harmful to health.

Break your alcohol pattern with IkPas

IkPas is an ideal option for those who have become aware of alcohol consumption and want to break their drinking pattern. A month is long enough to experience benefits both physically and mentally. “And”, says Rob, “you are guaranteed to encounter a few difficult moments in that month. You need that to determine what triggers might be for you to drink a glass or something.” Research has often proven that IkPas works. Six months after taking an IkPas alcohol break, participants in IkPas drink at least 30 percent less alcohol than before. “Research is an important part of the IkPas intervention,” adds Rob. "In collaboration with partners, we have been providing a lot of useful information about drinking behavior in the drinking Netherlands through IkPas for 10 years now."

The 'On your health' campaign runs from 3 to 30 July and its expressions can be seen on television and in cinemas, among other places.

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