Alcohol consumption has increased in Canada since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with isolation and stress resulting in a spike in drinking alcoholic beverages. In fact, a survey conducted by Statistics Canada in January 2021 showed that nearly one-quarter of Canadians who drank alcohol before the pandemic were drinking significantly more alcohol.
However, many Canadians have since re-evaluated their relationship with alcoholic drinks, striving to achieve healthier lifestyles.
According to Dr. Emily Jenkins, an associate professor of nursing at the University of British Columbia who has worked with the Canadian Mental Health Association, higher alcohol consumption can also increase existing mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. “Alcohol impacts people’s mood, things like energy and sleep patterns that are really important to our mental health, concentration and memory,” Dr. Jenkins said in her interview with Best Health Magazine.
Moreover, scientific research indicates that consuming alcoholic drinks is linked to a higher risk of developing cancer and cardiovascular disease. Importantly, some medical research studies show that consuming even a small amount of alcohol is associated with a significant increase of developing breast cancer in women.
“Everyone’s got their own reason [for abstaining from alcohol],” said Kaitlyn Stewart, a Vancouver-based cocktail curator and consultant. “You should never feel judged or left out of a celebration or social gathering just because you’re not drinking.”
Fortunately, there are many non-alcoholic drink options, including zero-alcohol “alt-spirits” available this holiday season to make gatherings healthier and more inclusive.
“Ordering a drink that comes out in a martini glass but has no alcohol, you feel like, ‘Oh, I’m a part of the gang.’ Even having that visual cue is nice for people to feel included during photos or toasting,” said Stewart. “Plus, some people don’t want others to know why they aren’t drinking—for some, it can be easy to answer questions and for other people it can be very triggering.”
A great way to make all of your guests feel comfortable if you are hosting this season is to offer non-alcoholic options along with the alcoholic versions. If both are offered up in the same area and style (ie. pretty glasses, fun flavours) it allows for more inclusivity and doesn’t put any pressure on guests to disclose or discuss their sobriety, it’s simply there with all of the other options.