Safe drinking confusionThe public are confused about drinking

03 February 2006

A survey published in the British Medical Journal found that most shoppers don't know the recommended daily alcohol limit and many don't use alcohol labelling to help monitor their drinking. Heavy drinking can lead to heart disorders including high blood pressure and stroke.

Researchers Jan Gill and Fiona O'May, from Queen Mary University College in Scotland, asked 263 supermarket shoppers in Edinburgh about their knowledge of sensible drinking messages and awareness of alcohol labelling.

The Department of Health advises that men drink no more than 3-4 units of alcohol per day, and women should drink no more than 2-3 units. A 175ml glass of red or white wine contains around two units. A pint of ordinary strength lager also has two units.

The survey found that most of those questioned were able to define roughly what a unit of alcohol was - only 14 per cent of women and 16 per cent of men were unable to give a response.

But knowledge of the recommended daily guidance was poor. Only 8 per cent knew that women were limited to 2-3 units and 5 per cent knew that men were limited to 3-4 units a day. Only 25 per cent of women and 19 per cent of men said they used the unit system to monitor their own personal drinking.

Of the 46 per cent of people who said they preferred drinking wine, 22 per cent could give no estimate of the number of units in a bottle and 36 per cent thought it was seven or fewer units - the right answer is about nine.

The researchers said: 'This pilot study highlights considerable confusion about sensible drinking messages in the UK. Few respondents used the unit system to monitor their drinking.'

They said that current educational initiatives in the UK may fail to help adults wishing to drink sensibly due to confusion over the guidelines.