Drinkers can underestimate alcohol habits

Author: Department of Health

Date: Feb 2013

Some people could be underestimating their alcohol intake by as much as 40 per cent, according to new figures the Department of Health published today.

The snapshot into the nation’s drinking habits come as this year’s Change4life TV ad campaign is launched to raise awareness of the health harms caused by regularly drinking over the guidelines.

The recent Health Survey for England highlighted underestimations in both the amount and frequency that people drink, raising major concerns about the nation’s knowledge of alcohol.

The campaign, which calls on people to check their intake using an online Drinks Checker tool, shows how simple changes can save both money and reduce calories.

Research shows across the country 80 per cent of those that drink too much acknowledge the health risks but think of themselves at most as moderate drinkers. More than 60 per cent of these drinkers have no intention of cutting down.

To get a picture of drinking habits, the Change4Life team asked 19 individuals to keep a detailed drinks diary for two weeks. The findings show those that took part were drinking on average the equivalent of an extra large glass of wine each day, or 40 per cent more that they thought.

After keeping a drinks diary for a week, people were offered simple tips on cutting down and as a result, they:

  • cut their alcohol consumption by over a third;
  • saved around £33.35 a week – or over £1,730 a year; and
  • consumed 1,658 fewer calories a week an average of 236 calories a day – around 10 per cent of the average person’s daily intake and the equivalent to 125ml (a small wine glass) of cream per day.

Participants also said that cutting down improved their physical and emotional wellbeing. And those involved also reported that adding more mixer to drinks and substituting alcoholic drinks with soft drinks were the most popular tips to include in their lifestyle.

Other tips for cutting down included having booze-free days if they drink every day, not drinking at home before going out, swapping to low-alcohol or alcohol-free drinks and simply using smaller glasses.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said:

I understand that people enjoy having a glass of wine or beer to unwind at the end of a busy day but these drinks stack up and can increase your risk of high blood pressure, cancer or liver disease.

The alcohol guidelines recommend that men should not regularly drink more than three to four units a day and women should not regularly drink more than two to three units a day.

The Change4Life campaign aims to help and encourage people to check how much they are drinking using the Drinks Checker app or online and if they find they are drinking over the guidelines, provide helpful tips and advice to cut down.

Cutting back your drinking can reduce your health risks, reduce your calorie intake, help you sleep better and boost your energy. To find out more I strongly recommend people to search Change4Life.

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Last revised: 20 August 2016

Next review: 20 August 2019