So what’s the big idea? Why is Éduc’alcool advising people to count their drinks?

Counting your drinks means being mindful

Counting keeps you aware of how much you are drinking. And the more you do it, the more it becomes a habit, which is useful, important and actually kind of fun.

Drivers who never check their speedometers tend to speed without realizing it. Mindless behaviour, in general, can often lead to excess.

Many people with healthy lifestyles keep track of all kinds of things: how many steps they take in a day, how many kilometers they bike, how many calories they eat, etc. Doing so makes them mindful of their physical activity and eating habits.

It’s the same with alcohol. It’s good to know the recommended drinking limits, but what’s the point if you don’t know how many drinks you’ve had?

Proven effective

Numerous studies, most of them done in Australia, have shown that counting drinks is useful and effective.

1

Counting drinks predicts a reduction in the number of weekly drinks over time.

2

Compared to heavy drinkers, moderate drinkers report always1 using one or more of the following strategies, all of which are effective: 

  • Counting drinks
  • Alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Drinking only low-alcohol beverages
  • Saying no to a drink
  • Eating while drinking
  • Setting a limit before starting to drink
  • Quenching thirst with water, a non-alcoholic beverage, or a mocktail, before starting to drink alcohol
3

The more regularly you count your drinks, the more your drinking habits improve.2

4

Heavy drinkers count their drinks less frequently than moderate drinkers.

5

People in poorer health tend not to count their drinks.

6

When it comes to eating habits, people who are trying to lose weight experience the same benefits from counting calories as from following a strict diet.

Counting drinks is not only about sticking to the recommended drinking limits, but it really helps when that’s your objective.

How are people responding to this advice in Quebec?

Before publicizing this message across Quebec, Éduc’alcool not only reviewed the research, it commissioned its own survey, by the independent polling firm CROP, to assess the impact of such a message and how it would be received by Quebecers. The results speak for themselves.

  • A majority (55%) said it was very good advice.
  • 44% of Quebecers said that a campaign encouraging them to develop the habit of counting their drinks would, in fact, make them count their drinks, while 16% said they were already doing so.
  • Only 2% of respondents felt the advice was intrusive and an invasion of their privacy.
  • There is surely more work to be done, since about 40% of Quebecers believe such advice is useless, although they do not take a negative view of the concept that counting drinks is one way to drink moderately.

It’s such a simple thing, so easy to do, and a good habit to develop. Take a tip from Éduc’alcool: Counting your drinks is a great way to practice moderation.

References

1 There is no benefit when people use these strategies rarely or sometimes. 
2 CROP survey (2020) En octobre on compte ses verres