Page last updated at 10:49 GMT, Thursday, 22 January 2009

A third 'drink over daily limit'

Man drinking a pint
Alcohol misuse is a major problem for the NHS

Over a third of adults in Britain drink over the recommended daily amount at least one day a week, figures show.

Data from the Office for National Statistics for 2007 shows one in five adults consumed more than double the "limit" on their heaviest drinking day.

A separate survey shows awareness of safe drinking limits has increased in the 10 years, but many people are still confused on the exact recommendations.

Alcohol Concern said more action was needed to tackle binge drinking.

Current advice on drinking is that men should not regularly drink more than three to four units of alcohol a day and women should not regularly drink more than two to three units.

While the large majority of people have heard of units, due to lack of labelling information, they are unaware of how many units they are drinking and how many units are safe
Don Shenker, Alcohol Concern

Figures from almost 16,000 over-16s who took part in the General Household Survey 2007 showed that 37% of adults exceeded the benchmark during the week before they were interviewed.

More men drank over the recommended limit on at least one day in the week (41%) compared with women (34%).

The figures suggest alcohol consumption is higher in the middle classes.

People in "managerial and professional" households drank more than the daily limits on their heaviest drinking day of the week (43%) than those in "routine and manual" households (31%).

There has been little change in alcohol consumption since 2006 and comparisons with previous years are difficult due to a change in how intake is measured.


A survey on adults' opinions around drinking, also from the ONS, showed that 86% of people have heard about measuring alcohol intake in units compared with 75% a decade ago.

But only two-fifths of people could correctly state the recommended daily limits for men and 44% knew what the limits for women were.

Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern said: "Today's figures show that while the government is moving in the right direction to tackle the country's high levels of harmful and hazardous drinking, action is long overdue.

"The industry's voluntary code of practice is not working and we welcome the introduction of a mandatory code later in the year.

"While the large majority of people have heard of units, due to lack of labelling information, they are unaware of how many units they are drinking and how many units are safe.

He added that the practice of selling alcohol at below cost prices in supermarkets had been left to grow "unfettered" for far too long.

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians said: "While people's awareness of the health risks associated with drinking above the recommended limits is surprisingly good, knowledge of those limits is still poor, despite ten years of concerted work to raise awareness levels.

"It is vital that the government take the next step of introducing mandatory labelling on drinks so that people are in a better position to keep track of their own consumption levels."

Public health minister, Dawn Primarolo said: "Initial tracking from our Units campaign, launched in May last year, shows more people know how much is safe to drink and know how many units are in their drinks."

She added she expected to see an impact of the campaign on alcohol misuse in the coming months.

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