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Wednesday, 27 June, 2001, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Drinkers 'fail to keep check on units'
Beer was the most popular drink among those surveyed
Beer was the most popular drink among those surveyed
Few people have any idea of how many alcohol units they are drinking, statistics out on Wednesday show.

Eighty per cent of those questioned - up 5% from a 1998 survey - knew that alcohol was measured in units, and almost two thirds knew what the daily limits for consumption were.

But only 13% said they kept a check on the number of units they drank, virtually unchanged from last survey, carried out in 1998.

Campaigners for safe drinking said they were concerned people were not putting their knowledge to use.

Daily limits
Men - no more than 4 units
Women - no more than three
The statistics were revealed in Office for National Statistics data from its multi-purpose omnibus survey.

Women's awareness of their daily recommended limits increased, with 50% aware that a half pint of beer equalled one unit, compared with 42% in 1998.

Men's awareness levels were unchanged, though more were keeping a daily check.

Drinking habits

The report also showed a dramatic fall in the numbers who had drunk alcohol over the previous week, 65% of men and 48% of women had had a drink in the previous week, down respectively from 77% and 61% in 1998.

Seventeen per cent of men and 11% of women had had a drink on five or more days in the week before they were questioned in the survey, carried out in 2000.

Drinks which equal a unit
Half a pint of beer
A small glass of wine
A single measure of spirits
The numbers drinking significantly over daily limits remained relatively unchanged, with 20% of men drinking over eight units on more than one day in the previous week.

For women, only 8% had drunk more than six units.

Beer was the most popular drink, with three-fifths choosing it - 13% drinking strong beer of over 6% proof.

Half of those who drunk beer in the last year knew that a half was equal to a unit, but one in five gave the wrong amount.

One in 10 men had talked about their drinking with their GP, or another health professional, compared to just six per cent of women.

Home drinking

People were most likely to have bought their alcohol from supermarkets, followed by bars and then restaurants.

Men were twice as likely as women to have bought alcohol from a bar or off-licence in the previous week.

But people were most likely to regularly drink at home. Forty-four per cent of men and 51% of women had done so in the previous week.

Ten per cent of men had drunk alone, though 55% had drunk with friends and 42% with a spouse or partner.

Women were the opposite, with 49% drinking with a partner or spouse and 42% with friends.

A spokeswoman for Alcohol Concern told BBC News Online: "Obviously we are pleased more people know what the safe drinking limits are. But the figures do seem to indicate that people aren't putting it into practise when they are drinking - and that's worrying."

She said there was also concern about the numbers drinking over the daily limits, and added that although she was pleased some people were talking to their doctor about their drinking habits, the number was still relatively small.

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See also:

15 Apr 01 | Health
Why alcohol affects women more
01 Feb 01 | Health
6bn bill for alcohol abuse
08 Nov 00 | Health
One in 20 'hooked on drink'
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