Nearly three-quarters of Canadians say they aren’t changing their drinking habits despite recent national guidelines warning that more than two alcoholic drinks a week can increase risks of cancer, stroke and heart disease.
That’s according to a new Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News, which also found that more than half of the respondents believed the recommended number of drinks was so low that it lacked credibility and was nothing but fear-mongering tactics. This belief was higher among men (61 per cent) than women (53 per cent).
The hesitation of many Canadians to change their alcohol consumption comes after the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) released a recommendation in January stating that even moderate drinking — anything more than two drinks a week — can put your health at risk.
The definition of a standard drink in Canada is equivalent to a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, a shot glass of spirits or a bottle of cider.
There are some shifts in attitudes but more so with younger Canadians, explained Sean Simpson, senior vice-president with Ipsos Public Affairs.
“There is a big divide by age. It seems that younger Canadians are more concerned about the level of alcohol they consume. They’re more likely to be taking steps to reduce their consumption, more likely to believe that alcohol consumption is linked to both their physical and their mental health,” he said.
The poll found that younger Canadians are more likely to say they are considering Health Canada’s new drinking guidelines. For example, 36 per cent of respondents aged 18-34 said they consumed too much alcohol and noted its negative impact on their physical and mental health. Meanwhile, only five per cent of Canadians 55 years old and up mirrored that opinion.
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Among Canadians who drink, four in 10 said they have cut back their drinking since the new year, which jumps to over half among those aged 18-34. But only 37 per cent of those 55 years and up said they have done the same. Similarly, almost two in 10 respondents said they participated in either ‘Dry January’ or ‘Dry February,’ which climbs to almost a third among those aged 18-34 and only seven per cent for those 55 years and up.
Although it seems that older people are more likely to ignore the government’s drinking recommendations, a majority of Canadians may still think twice before having that extra drink.
The poll found 53 per cent of Canadians said they will make better choices when it comes to their alcohol consumption as a result of these new guidelines from Health Canada.
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Simpson believes there are a few other elements at play contributing to Canadian’s drinking habits.
For example, he argued that increased immigration in the country may lead to fewer people drinking.
“Immigrants tend to be a little bit younger and many are coming from cultures where alcohol consumption is not an everyday occurrence like it may have been historically for Eurocentric communities that were traditionally the immigration patterns decades ago,” Simpson said.
There is also the argument that young people may be drinking less because they are trading one vice for another one, such as cannabis.
Now that marijuana is legal in Canada, many people could be switching from booze to weed, Simpson said.
It is not known just how many Canadians have made the switch, but national data on beer sales shows early signs of falling consumption in 2019, after cannabis was legalized, though experts caution that a longer-term shift would take years, maybe a generation, to make itself felt.
Even if there is a shift, Simpson said young people are still spearheading the change in drinking habits in the country.
“Clearly, the trend here, especially for younger people, is reducing their alcohol consumption, whether it’s replaced by other forms … certainly the trend is towards less alcohol,” Simpson said.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between Feb.15 and 17, 2023, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,350 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18 and over been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
— with files from Patrick Cain, Global News’ Saba Aziz and Katherine Ward
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.