Wine Cheers

Health check: is moderate drinking good for me?

Hassan Vally, La Trobe University

For the past three decades or so, the conventional wisdom has been that drinking alcohol at moderate levels is good for us.

The evidence for this has come from many studies that have suggested the death rate for moderate drinkers is lower than that for non-drinkers. In other words, we thought moderate drinkers lived longer than those who didn’t drink at all.

This phenomenon has been communicated with great impact by the J-shaped curve that shows death rates fall as you move from non-drinking to moderate drinking, before rising again as drinking levels increase.



Most of us embraced these studies with enthusiasm. But the findings were probably too good to be true. The problem has always been the potential mixing of many other variables – called confounding factors – with drinking.

The concern was that non-drinkers as a group in many of these previous studies were different to moderate drinkers in many ways in addition to their drinking. Non-drinkers may have been unhealthier to begin with (hence not taking up drinking in the first place) or they may have included recovering alcoholics with poor health.

These confounding factors may have made moderate drinkers look healthier than they actually were (relative to non-drinkers) and thus have led us to associate moderate drinking with better health.

More recent studies have been able to address this challenge of separating out the effect of drinking on health, independent of other confounding factors. And these newer studies tell us moderate drinking is probably not good for us at all.

Instead of the J-shaped curve described previously, the most recent evidence is showing a curve that continues on an upward trajectory.


As you increase your level of drinking beyond not drinking at all, for all levels of drinking, your health outcomes worsen. The curve starts off relatively flat, before rising dramatically, indicating much higher rates of early death as drinking levels increase.

So what is the health cost of moderate drinking?

If we look at a recent Lancet study that addressed this issue, we can start to make sense of this cost. This suggests that if you drink one alcoholic drink per day you have a 0.5% higher risk of developing one of 23 alcohol-related health conditions.

But risk expressed in this way is difficult to interpret. It’s only when we convert this to an absolute risk that we can begin to understand the actual magnitude of this risk to our health. It translates to four more deaths per 100,000 people due to alcohol, which is actually a pretty small risk (but an increased risk nonetheless).

This risk estimation assumes several things, including that you drink alcohol every single day, so you would expect the risk to be smaller for those who drink every other day or only occasionally.

The latest evidence suggests the health cost of light to moderate drinking, if there is one, is quite small. What was previously thought to be a marginal benefit of moderate alcohol drinking is now considered a marginal cost to health.

So for you as an individual, what does this new evidence mean?

Maybe it means having to lose the contentedness you have felt as you drink your evening glass of wine, believing it was also improving your health.

Or maybe this new evidence will give you the motivation to reduce your drinking, even if you are only a moderate drinker.

Of course, if you get pleasure from drinking responsibly, and you have no intention of changing your drinking habits, then you will have to consider and accept this potential cost to your health.

But remember, the evidence is still incontrovertible that drinking high levels
of alcohol is very bad for you. It will shorten the length of your life and affect the quality of your life and those around you.The Conversation

Hassan Vally, Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

BACK TO SCHOOL: Here’s how to keep kids free of head lice

A new school year, and another battle between bloodsucking parasites and the kids they love to live on.

But the real casualties are the stressed-out parents and carers trying to keep their kids free of lice.

Here are some tips for delaying the inevitably tricky task of lice treatment for as long as possible.

Remind me, what are head lice?

Head lice (Pediculus capitis) are insects found almost exclusively in the hair on human heads. These parasites aren’t found anywhere else on the planet.

They’re perfectly designed to scuttle up and down strands of hair, feeding on blood from the scalp of those infested. They typically feed about three times a day, spending up to 15 minutes on each occasion.

While their bites may cause some mild irritation, lice don’t spread bugs that make us sick.

Head lice don’t live long – not much more than a month. The adults lay eggs (commonly known as nits), which typically hatch in around a week or so. This life cycle is simple, but crucial for identifying and eradicating infestations.

PHOTO: © Blamb /

You want to remove the adult lice, then treat again two weeks later to get rid of the newly hatched lice before they have a chance to lay more eggs.

The eggs are immovably cemented to shafts of hair. These eggs, even when the lice have hatched, will remain and grow out with the hair strands.

This means that spotting nits more than a centimetre or so from the scalp may not require treatment at all.

Instead, look for the live lice moving about. This is the most reliable way to confirm an infestation. Use a special lice comb from the local pharmacy to make the search easier.

How do children become infested?

Head lice don’t jump or fly or swim. They move from head to head through direct contact as the strands of hair from two people make contact, creating a bridge for adventurous lice to a new world.

But lice can be fussy, with one study showing hairs need to be specifically aligned to allow the parasites to skip from one strand to another.

This is why transmission of lice from one person to another doesn’t happen as readily as urban myths suggest.

Sharing hats, towels, or pillows won’t dramatically increase the chance of picking up head lice. They’re not going to crawl across the classroom floor either.

Direct head-to-head contact is the best way to share an infestation, so keep an eye out for kids crowded around smartphones and tablets.

Lice don’t necessarily have a particular predilection for clean or dirty hair. Short hair isn’t immune from infestation, but long hair means the chances of picking up lice are greater.

Ensuring hair is neatly pulled back will dramatically reduce the risk of picking up head lice.

Are head lice really a problem in Australia?

Head lice are a problem the world over. But they are more of a nuisance than a health risk in most instances.

Research suggests around one-third of Australian primary school-aged children could currently have head lice. With more than 2.1 million primary school students in Australia, that’s about 700,000 potentially infested children.

The thought of head lice may be actually worse than the itchiness resulting from an actual infestation. The Australian Academy of Science provides an entertaining breakdown of why this maligned parasites cause so much stress.

It’s more difficult to control head lice than in the past. International studies indicate lice are becoming resistant to commonly used insecticide treatments. This is also likely to be a problem in Australia but more research is needed to better understand the situation here.

Alternatives to traditional insecticides, such as botanical extracts, may be more useful in the future.

Most health authorities in Australia recommend avoiding insecticides, and instead suggest wetting the hair (or using conditioner) and then combing the lice out.

Essential to eradicating head lice infestations is two treatments, each about a week apart. This ensures adult lice are killed, then any eggs remaining are allowed to hatch but those newly hatched lice are killed by the second treatment before they have an opportunity to lay more eggs.

I’m itchy already!

Perhaps the biggest health issue associated with head lice is the stress and anxiety for parents and carers of infested children.

Even before a single louse is even spotted, finding a note from the school warning of a “lice outbreak” could be enough to trigger frantic head scratching! There is even a term for this: psychosomatic itching.

Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for getting rid of lice. And no matter what social media claims, using mayonnaise, hair straighteners or household cleaning products) is a bad idea.

The most important thing to remember is lice aren’t going to cause health problems, nor are they indicators of poor household hygiene or quality of care.

Cameron Webb, Clinical Lecturer and Principal Hospital Scientist, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How to opt out of My Health Record

If you don’t want a record created for you the deadline to opt out is fast approaching.

After midnight tonight, a My Health Record will be created for every Australian.

To complete the online opt-out process for either yourself or your dependents under 18 (listed on your Medicare card) as a minimum, you will need your Medicare card and driver licence (or other identification).

If you need to opt-out of a My Health Record for someone over 18 who is dependent on you, additional documentation is required and you may need to contact the My Health Record Helpline on 1800 723 471.

The following video steps through the process;

Once you have completed the opt-out process, you cannot cancel your request however if you change your mind down the track, and would like to create a My Health Record you can re-register any time.

For more information visit the My Health Record website or phone the 24/7 helpline on 1800 723 471.


Here’s to presence rather than presents

While most people appear to be whizzing around trying to make a dent in their Christmas shopping list, I’ve been reading about the psychology of Christmas.

Start digging and you’ll find lots of studies showing that lower emotional wellbeing is common at Christmas.

When did society declare that Christmas should become so stressful?

Considering it’s meant to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, it certainly has its trying moments, doesn’t it?

Perhaps this is a good time to remember that presence is more important than presents. By that I mean, choosing to spend time with those you cherish and really being mindful to be in the room.
Not thinking about how much you have to do, or which presents you haven’t bought yet but really enjoying moments of quality time.

This is so much more important than dragging yourself to every single social outing just because you feel you should or spending far too much on gifts you can’t really afford.

If you switch on the TV, ads will pretend that everyone else is playing happy families and filling the fridge with enough food to feed 5000. It’s all so over the top and unrealistic.

In reality, it’s a tough time of year for many.

It’s a time when feelings of nostalgia and isolation can be overwhelming. Many feel lonely at Christmas and it’s important to remember that not everyone will spend it surrounded by family they love. There are alienated parents right across the country (and the world) that will be carrying a heavy sense of loss at this time of year especially.

So, this is a really important time of year for self-care.

Setting boundaries is crucial and saying ‘no’ is essential.

It is perfectly wise to make time for yourself rather than cramming your diary full just for the sake of it.

Take time to do things you genuinely enjoy and make the time to feel grateful for what you do have.

Also, you don’t have to completely abandon your health because it’s Christmas, it’s perfectly acceptable to take care of yourself. Eating well and getting plenty of sleep will ensure you come out into the New Year without feeling like a shadow of your former self.

Importantly, don’t fall for the hype and don’t get overwhelmed – keep this Christmas in perspective!

International Day of People with Disability

International Day of People with Disability 2018 – Empowering Inclusive Workplaces

Today, Monday 3 December 2018 we celebrate International Day of People with Disability and the theme for this year is empowering and ensuring inclusiveness and equality. This is a timely reminder as the likelihood of living with disability increases with age and we will see increasing levels of disability on the Gold Coast in the future.

Disability in the workplace is more common than people think, with 1 in 5 Queenslanders having a disability of some sort, including mental, intellectual and physical disability.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 27,500 Gold Coast residents have a profound or severe disability, needing assistance in one or more of the three core activity areas of self-care, mobility and communication. To support this need, over 44,800 residents provided unpaid assistance to a person with a disability in 2016.

The employment statistics are equally concerning, with 2.1 million Australian of work age having a disability (15-64 years old) – just over 1 million of these workers are employed and approximately 115,000 are looking for work. Graduates with a disability face a greater challenge as they take 56 per cent longer to gain fulltime employment than other graduates.

According to the National Disability Strategy, work is a key factor in an individual gaining economic security and achieving social inclusion. Employers in our community play an integral part in empowering disabled workers and can provide an inclusive workplace by being aware of the law and following some simple tips:

  • Check if your workplace complies with the Disability (Access to Premises-Buildings) Standard 2010 building code to ensure easy access to your building.
  • Employers have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to enable an employee with a disability to perform their duties, including providing flexible working hours, regular breaks and modifications to workstations and work instructions.
  • Familiarise yourself with your responsibilities and obligations under the Fair Work Act to ensure employees are provided with a safe and inclusive work environment.
  • Avoid discriminating against prospective employees when advertising for a position. For example, does the position description truly reflect the essential requirements of the role, or is there some flexibility for workers with a disability?
  • An employee with a disability has the right to ask their employer for modifications to their workplace or situation. If these adjustments are considered ‘reasonable’, the employer is obligated to implement them.
  • Anti-discrimination laws apply regardless of whether or not an employee’s disability was the result of a work-related injury. Employers need to be aware of this if they receive a request for an adjustment.

For example, to provide for an employee with a disability, an employer might allow:

  • a change to duties or tasks
  • flexible working hours
  • regular breaks
  • workstation adjustments
  • modifications to work instructions or reference manuals
  • installation of ramps or other equipment.

Today, let’s celebrate the outstanding achievements of those living with a disability and focus as a community on accelerating the eradication of barriers to employment and inclusion.

For more information about the International Day of People with Disability visit: –