Excess drinking ‘is underestimated’

Excess drinking of alcohol ‘is underestimated’

Ad hoc drinking may mean we don’t actually understand how much we’re consuming

The amount of alcohol consumed in England can be much higher than previously thought, a study suggests.

University College London researchers compared alcohol sales figures with surveys of what people said they drank.

They found there has been an important shortfall with almost 1/2 the alcohol sold unaccounted for within the consumption figures given by drinkers.

This suggests as many as three-quarters of folks can be drinking above the recommended daily alcohol limit.

The researchers reached their estimates by factoring within the “missing” alcohol – and located excess drinking was excess of suggested by official figures, they told European Journal of Public Health.

Experts said much alcohol use went unreported, partly because drinkers didn’t admit or keep track of ways much they consumed.

‘Health implications’

The study found that 19% more men than previously thought were regularly exceeding their recommend daily limit – and 26% more women.

Total consumption around the week was also higher than officially thought – with 15% more men, and 11% more women drinking above the weekly guidelines.

The current recommendation set by the united kingdom Chief Medical Officers seriously is not to regularly exceed four units per day for men and 3 units an afternoon for ladies; the Royal College of Physicians recommends weekly alcohol limits of 21 units for men and 14 units for ladies – although these are currently under review.

A unit of alcohol is roughly corresponding to half a pint of normal strength beer, or nearly one small glass of wine.

Sadie Boniface, lead author of the study at University College, said: “Currently we do not know who consumes almost half all alcohol in England. This study was conducted to indicate what alcohol consumption would appear to be when all of what’s sold is accounted for, if everyone under-reported equally.

“The implications are putative, but they show that this gap between what’s seen within the surveys and sales potentially has enormous implications for public health in England.”

The team used alcohol sales data from Revenue and Customs and compared it with two self-reporting alcohol consumption surveys conducted in 2008 – the overall Lifestyle Survey (GLF) which analysed average weekly alcohol consumption in 12,490 adults, and the Health Survey for England (HSE) which checked out consumption at the heaviest drinking day inside the previous week among 9,608 adults.

Counting units

The researchers say they’ll now look into the characteristics of these which are under-reporting the variety of drinks they have got had, and why.

They suggest it usually is right down to drinking patterns and habits – those who are mixing drinks, and drinking at different venues, can be prone to under-report.

The charity Alcohol Concern suggests irregular and chaotic drinking behaviour may play an element: “When we’re totting up our drinks total we do not always count some occasions as proper drinking.

“We may underestimate drink sizes and their alcoholic content, and never count holidays and special occasions like weddings, birthdays and yuletide after we often drink a lot greater than usual.”

The researchers suggest that government drinking guidelines are looking to reflect actual consumption as opposed to reported drinking – especially when ascertaining what levels are linked to harm.

The Department of Health says this would be considered of their alcohol consumption review.

It said: “We already know people underestimate what they drink and lots drink an excessive amount of. That’s why we work to assist people make healthier decisions, including the new Change For all times campaign to assist them track consumption and understand the impact on their health.

“We’re also tackling excessive drinking through our proposed minimum unit price at 45p per unit, tougher licensing laws, more GP risk assessments, better access to specialist nurses and more specialised treatment.”

Diane Abbott MP, Labour’s shadow public health minister, said: “This has got to be a wake-up demand the govt and the rustic, because after greater than two years of bitter internal rows, the govt. has got cold feet about its only proposed alcohol harm policy.

“More must be done to tackle problem drinking, which costs the rustic £21bn.”