Brits are drinking 40% more alcohol than they realise
8th February 2013
England’s most senior doctor today claimed that regular drinkers are under a false pretence about their drinking levels with many so-called ‘moderate’ drinkers grossly underestimating their daily drinking levels – sometimes by as much as 40%. Moreover, many of these apparent moderate drinkers are consistently exceeding official guidance that limits men to three to four units of alcohol (equivalent to a pint and a half of 4% beer) and two to three units for women (equivalent to a 175ml glass of wine per). The latest potentially concerning insight into the nation’s drinking culture comes in the form of study conducted by the Department of Health (DoH) which is part of their ‘Change4Life’ TV advertisement campaign. It would seem that the results go some way to showing that the British public are underestimating the quantity and frequency at which they consume alcohol. The news comes less than three months after it emerged that Prime Minister David Cameron is formulating plans to introduce  a 45p minimum price per unit to try and put a stop to the weekend binge drinking that is plaguing town centres across the country and also to reduce alcohol-related illnesses. Back in November, the Home Office claimed that this minimum price of 45p for a unit will slash the annual £42bn spent on alcoholic drinks in England and Wales by over 3%, helping to reduce crime and avoid 714 alcohol-related deaths each year. As part of the DoH study into typical drinking habits, 19 people aged between 35 and 55 were recruited and asked to report their drink intake over a two week period, describing what kind of drinker they would class themselves as. According to the information in their drinks diary, it was calculated that the individuals in the study were drinking on average the equivalent of an extra-large glass of wine each day - 40% more than they realised they were drinking. More findings from the study show that roughly 80% of those that drink too much are indeed aware of the risks to their health yet think of themselves as merely a moderate drinker. In addition, 60% of these ‘moderate’ drinkers do not plan to reduce their alcohol intake at any point in the future. However, in the second phase of the research, the participants were actually instructed to reduce their alcohol intake and were given simple bits of advice on how best to go about this. The tips provided included adding more of the ‘mixer’ to drinks and ditching alcoholic drinks in favour of soft drinks. Participants were also advised to include alcohol-free days if they would usually drink every day, stop drinking at home prior to going out anywhere, use smaller glasses for drinks and to stick to low-alcohol or alcohol-free drinks. After the second phase, it was discovered that they had managed to cut alcohol consumption by over a third. The participants had also taken in on average 1,658 less calories each week and managed to pocket an extra £33.35 a week that they wouldn’t have usually (equivalent to £1,730 a year). Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, said: “I understand that people enjoy having a glass of wine or beer to unwind at the end of a busy day - but these drinks stack up and can increase your risk of high blood pressure, cancer or liver disease. The alcohol guidelines recommend that men should not regularly drink more than three to four units a day and women should not regularly drink more than two to three units a day. The Change4Life campaign aims to help and encourage people to check how much they are drinking using the Drinks Checker app or online and if they find they are drinking over the guidelines, provide helpful tips and advice to cut down. Cutting back your drinking can reduce your health risks, reduce your calorie intake, help you sleep better and boost your energy.”