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Are half of England’s men binge drinkers?

New research suggests that alcohol consumption in England is much higher than previously assumed - with more than three quarters of adults drinking in excess.

A study conducted by the UCL Department of Epidemiology and Public Health for the first time considers the implications of under-reporting for alcohol consumption beyond the guidelines. According to international social surveys, the self-reported consumption accounts for only 40–60% of total alcohol sales in England.

Sadie Boniface, lead author of the study published in the European Journal of Public Health, says: ‘Currently we don’t know who consumes almost half of all the alcohol sold in England. This study was conducted to show what alcohol consumption would look like when all of what is sold is accounted for, if everyone under-reported equally.’

Based on the General Lifestyle survey and the Health Survey for England 2008, the research shows that 44% of men and 31% of women drink more than the weekly guidelines of 21 units per week for men and 14 units for women introduced in a Royal College of Physicians report in 1987.

The prevalence of drinking more than recommended becomes even more obvious in the figures for the daily limits of 3 units for women and 4 units for men. The research found that 75% of men and 80% of women exceeded the daily guidelines on their heaviest drinking day in the last week.

Binge drinking is defined by the Department of Health as consuming more than double of the recommended limits in one session, with 8 or more units for men and 6 for women. Assuming equal under-reporting across the population, the UCL study suggests that about half of men and women can be classed as binge drinkers. Both sexes are equally as likely to binge drink in a single session but men are significantly more likely to exceed the weekly thresholds.

The researchers consider the under-reporting a serious issue for the assessment of alcohol consumption in the UK. According to the study those on high incomes and those living in deprived areas are most affected for binge drinking.

  • Find out here how much you are drinking.

Page created on March 1st, 2013

Page updated on July 29th, 2013