Love Island's Dr Alex George has opened up about the summer culture of drinking alcohol and how much he was allowed to consume during his time on the show.
Research shows that alcohol is consumed more in summer compared to any other season. Even if heavy drinkers continue to drink the same, others are reported as often feeling the pressure and being more easily influenced into drinking in excess in the warmer months.
Dr Alex believes events and television shows need to stop 'glorifying overconsumption of alcohol', particularly in summer months which are 'synonymous with advertisements around drinking'.
Tyla spoke to the doctor about his current attitudes towards alcohol, how much he was allowed to drink while on Love Island, and how the show has progressed in its stance on alcohol and its effect on mental health over the years.
Dr Alex revealed that while on Love Island back in 2018, contestants were only allowed to drink 'four small cans of beer and that was it'.
He added: "That was the maximum allowance of alcohol, which wasn't a lot.
"I mean you certainly weren't getting drunk off that – but they were very, very strict on that."
The doctor said he thinks it's 'so important' that TV shows such as Love Island and others reflect 'safe practices when it comes to drinking'.
"Talking more broadly I think we need to stop glorifying alcohol. Particularly at university glorifying alcohol consumption.
"The risk of death goes up drastically while you’re drunk, the risk of mental health illnesses rises in a relatively linear fashion with the amount of units you drink each week," he reflected.
While he still chooses to drink alcohol in moderation, Dr Alex said there was 'no real benefit' to it; it might 'relax you a bit' on a night out for example, but can easily cause anxiety the next day.
The former Love Islander says he often swaps out spirits for non-alcoholic alternatives, which is what he did when he attended the Royal Ascot this week.
He explained: "Places like Ascot, sometimes it can be quite glorified. So fair play to Harrogate water coming here to actually say, you can have a great drink and enjoy yourself and not actually consume alcohol.
"Or if you’d like to, moderate your drinking by swapping. The reason I swap them in is because it’s a great way of regulating drinking. Because to be honest I don’t want to just drink Diet Coke all the time.
"I also find that if you drink something like non alcoholic beer or gin or whatever then people don’t question it or say anything. It’s not that you should have to justify it, or say to people, ‘No I don’t want to drink’, but you just can’t be bothered with someone asking why you’re not drinking.
"Whereas if you have something which tastes nice and replicates very similarly to alcohol then you feel part of it without actually having to drink."
The amount of alcohol contestants are allowed to drink on Love Island has dramatically decreased and become very regulated compared to the earlier seasons.
Dr Alex, who is on the mental health advisory board at ITV, noted how he has seen drastic improvements over the years in how the show takes care of its contestants' wellbeing.
He said: "Nothing is perfect ever, and I think you can always develop, but to go back to when I was on there in 2018, there wasn’t as much as a proactive sense of checking on people.
"I’m not just thinking before but after the show. For me, at the time I had really good support.
"I came off the show and I thought, this experience has gone different to say the least, and I asked for counselling and I had it within 24 hours. They’ve been checking in on me periodically ever since I left, which has been years down the line."
However, Dr Alex noted that many people who are the most cause for concern are the contestants who aren't as open about when they're struggling.
"So most of the package now is around actually creating check-in sessions, basically, so that – it’s a stereotype – but the men for example, who wouldn’t say, ‘I’m struggling’ – you’re going to them and it increases the chances of catching problems early and increases the chance of people not slipping through the net really," he explained.
The doctor also reflected on how many steps and 'psychological experts' applicants now have to go through to even get on the show.
"When I went on the show I think it was a lot easier to go on. And I think probably in terms of being vulnerable, there was probably a lot higher risk of vulnerable contestants going on.
"But now, the steps they are going through – while nothing is 100 percent and nothing is fail safe – I’d say it’s as good as you can get," he added.
Seeing a lad that young make a decision to benefit his own mental health over tv exposure is so refreshing, good on ya liam #loveisland— Jo🏡💚 (@joannedunne_x) June 10, 2022
Overall, he thinks Love Island, along with the rest of the world, is still 'learning'.
He reminded viewers that while contestants do have to take some 'autonomy' for their actions, they too are human.
"I suspect those coming off Love Island now are probably more aware of their expectations and responsibilities I guess than probably they were earlier on," he says. "I’m not saying everyone will follow it perfectly [...] but I heavily believe they’re a lot more aware of the spotlight.
"People do make unwise choices – I mean we talked about drinking – and it can affect your mental health. So I think it’s important to realise these are adults at the end of the day.
"To be human is to make mistakes. And to be human is imperfect."
If you want to discuss any issues relating to alcohol in confidence, contact Drinkline on 0300 123 1110, 9am–8pm weekdays and 11am–4pm weekends for advice and support
If you're experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They're open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you're not comfortable talking on the phone