Page last updated at 11:57 GMT, Friday, 18 December 2009

Many drink 'more than they think'

Red wine
Experts are concerned about high consumption

Surveys of people's drinking habits "grossly underestimate" the amount they consume by some 44 million bottles of wine a week, a charity warns.

Alcohol Concern says drinkers in the UK consume the equivalent of a bottle of wine per week more than they admit.

It says this could be because they "forget" or underestimate how much they have drunk during heavy sessions.

Sales would need to fall by almost a third to get men and women within the recommended guidelines.

The survey comes after figures from the Health Survey for England revealed 41% of men and 32% of women had drunk more than the recommended number of units of alcohol on at least one day in the previous week.

This includes 25% of men and 15% of women who had drunk more than twice the recommended maximum, which is 14 units a week for women and 21 units a week for men.

Actual consumption

The latest report was based on analysis from the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University.

This gluttonous attitude is having a devastating effect on the NHS, costing the nation millions each year
Sarah Matthews, British Liver Trust

It found that the difference between survey data and actual sales data reveals 225 million litres of alcohol go unaccounted for every year.

This is equivalent to 430 million units of alcohol a week, or 44 million bottles of wine.

Professor Mark Bellis, director of the Centre for Public Health and lead author, said: "It is easy to see how so much alcohol can be consumed without actually registering in surveys.

"We've compared the amount that comes in through taxation and sales with the amount that's reported in the big national surveys and in reality we're missing for every single drinker about one bottle of wine per week.

"Now that's all well and good and we might be comfortable fooling ourselves a little bit about that, but that doesn't mean we avoid the health effects associated with all that additional alcohol."

'Alcohol harms'

Alcohol Concern's chief executive, Don Shenker, said: "If we underestimate our drinking levels, then we're underestimating the amount of harm we can expect to happen to our families, communities and wider society - as well as how much further we need to go to curb our excessive consumption.

"Poor survey intelligence can result in misinformed policy.

"Any future government must get to grips with measuring the true scale and nature of this problem if it is to make a difference to reduce alcohol harms."

Sarah Matthews, a spokesperson for the British Liver Trust said: "Knowing how much alcohol you drink is obviously a key part in assessing and maintaining your health, however it is difficult to resist the enticing offers and 'pile-them-high' promotions that supermarkets employ to encourage people to bulk buy their alcohol.

"This gluttonous attitude is having a devastating effect on the NHS, costing the nation millions each year."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Many of us enjoy a drink, especially at Christmas, but too many people in the UK regularly drink more than is safe, often without being aware of it.

"As well as avoiding the inevitable morning after hangovers, sticking within safe limits means you reduce the risk of developing serious conditions such as mouth cancer and strokes in the future."



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