Page last updated at 01:31 GMT, Monday, 19 May 2008 02:31 UK

Drinkers 'ignorant' about alcohol


Two of the 'Know Your Limits' adverts

Three-quarters of drinkers do not know a typical glass of wine contains three units of alcohol, a survey for the Department of Health suggests.

The YouGov survey of 1,429 drinkers in England found more than a third did not know their recommended daily limit - 2-3 units for women and 3-4 for men.

The survey coincides with a government campaign to promote careful drinking.

Ministers are concerned people are unaware that glass sizes have increased and some drinks have become stronger.

The internet survey found half those questioned drank alcohol at least two or three times a week.

And although 82% said they knew what a unit of alcohol was, 77% did not know how many units were in a typical large glass of wine.

GPs are used to hearing half truths about half measures - people need to have a better grasp of how much they're drinking by adding up their units
Professor Steve Field, Royal College of GPs

More than half (55%) thought a large glass of wine would contain two units, when it actually contains three.

Nearly three out of five (58%) did not know a double gin and tonic contains two units.

More than a third (35%) did not know that an average pint of beer (ABV 4%) contains more than two units - although some strong lagers contain three units.

And 36% of women and 50% of men knew their recommended daily drinking limits were 2-3 units and 3-4 units respectively.

The Office of National Statistics revamped its assessment method to take into account the increased glass sizes and strength of alcoholic drinks last December.

Ordinary families

The Know Your Limits campaign aims to tell drinkers how many units are now in their drinks and help them stick to their recommended limits.

A pint of lager with a number 3 on the side
Some lagers contain three units

There is a series of new adverts on television, radio and newspapers showing the number of units in individual drinks.

The adverts use ordinary family situations to help people understand how many units are in typical alcoholic drinks and warns them how too much regular drinking can damage their health.

Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said people are not necessarily aware of how much they drink and how much it can harm their health.

"Glass sizes have grown larger and the strength of many wines and beers has increased, so it's no wonder some of us have lost track of our alcohol consumption.

"We aim to give people the facts about how many units are in different drinks in a non-judgemental way. Then they can then make their own assessments about how much they want to drink in the future."

Older drinkers

Mrs Primarolo said the campaign was aimed at over 25s who were less aware of what a unit was than younger people.

Some 32% of drinkers aged 18-24 correctly said that a large glass of wine contains three units, compared with just 18% of drinkers over 55.

Royal College of General Practitioners chairman Professor Steve Field said: "When it comes to alcohol GPs are used to hearing half truths about half measures.

I don't have a clue how many units are in most drinks, but I do know when I have had enough
Joe Delaney, London

"People need to have a better grasp of how much they're drinking by adding up their units.

"Alcohol can be a major contributing factor in many health disorders so it's vital that people think about how much alcohol they drink," he said.

Joe Korner, from The Stroke Association, said the organisation fully supports efforts to make people aware of the health risks associated with excessive drinking.

"There are around 1,100 haemorrhagic stroke deaths every year associated with alcohol and statistics show that women who drink over double their recommended limits are more than four times likely to suffer a stroke, and men almost twice as likely," he said.

Mark Hastings, of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: "We fully support the aim of giving people information on which to make their own decisions.

"But the government needs to be careful not to target the sensible majority while failing to tackle abuse by the minority.

"What people need is realistic advice and sensible action, not interference with their own judgement."

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