The first of October marks the beginning of the annual temperance campaign conducted by the national health board Sundhedsstyrelsen. The media blitz featuring print, broadcast and billboard ads focuses each year on the societal and individual health risks associated with drinking too much alcohol. This year, one of Sundhedsstyrelsen’s focal points is the increased risk of contracting cancer associated with alcohol use.
The campaign is especially direct in warning women that even one to two glasses of booze a day – regardless of whether it is beer, wine or hard liquor – increases the risk of developing breast cancer.
Sundhedsstyrelsen’s website points out that although having a drink is "part of our social culture and we enjoy alcohol in many different contexts", even a few drinks increases a drinker’s cancer risk.
The warnings also take aim at the risks of combining boozing and smoking, saying that alcohol increases the carcinogenic effect of tobacco by between 10 and 100 times.
The campaign also takes a hard look at the lives of children with alcoholic parents.
Children of parents with alcohol problems are more prone to suicidal thoughts, abuse and have a higher risk of developing psychological problems than other children, according to the study, ‘Families with Alcohol Problems’, published on the board’s website.
"It's not fun to have a member of the family who drinks; it destroys everything,” said one of the children who contributed to the study. “You lose hope.”
The study shows that their parents' alcohol problems impact children far more than previously thought.
"Children in families where the father or mother drink have a life dominated by stress factors like neglect, conflict, and in the most extreme cases, violence,” said Kit Broholm, who helped prepare the report. “Irresponsible adults result in children with sleep disorders, nightmares, anxiety, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts."
Many believe that despite Sundhedsstyrelsen’s best efforts, there remains a growing national addiction to booze. A Megafon/Politiken/TV 2 poll revealed that 40 percent of those asked believe that Danes drink excessively.
Last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published figures showing that Denmark’s alcohol consumption has been among the highest in Europe for the past 30 years. Those numbers include nearly 600,000 Danes who may not be alcoholics, but are still “problem drinkers” according to Sundhedsstyrelsen.
Broholm believes that people too often feel pressured to drink even when they do not want to.
"Alcohol is expected to be part of every social occasion, and people are made to feel like they are killing the party if they say no,” she told Politiken newspaper.
Anette Søgaard Nielsen, head of Alkoholbehandlingen, an alcohol abuse research centre in Odense, told Politiken that too many people are reluctant to admit the prevalence of alcohol in the country’s culture.
“We all believe our own drinking habits are under control and it’s only other people that have a problem,” said Nielsen.
Along with the typical advice about drinking less and choosing beverages with a lower alcohol content, Sundhedsstyrelsen is recommending that everyone take a 'Stick a Cork in it" day and completely abstain from drinking on Thursday, October 11.