The English Drink a Lot More than Previously Estimated
According to a report in the medical journal BMC Medicine, alcohol consumption in England has been underestimated by the equivalent of 12 million bottles of wine a week, thanks to inaccurate information provided by surveys.
Report author Dr Mark Bellis says that surveys measuring drinking habits only account for around 60% of alcohol sold. He points out that many of these studies do not gather information about drinking on special occasions, focusing only on typical day-to-day life.
“Nationally, we underestimate how much we drink, and as individuals we can turn a blind eye to our heavier drinking periods when we calculate personal consumption,” says Dr Bellis, from Liverpool John Moores University. “For many people, though, these sessions add substantial amounts of alcohol to their annual consumption and inevitably increase their risks of developing alcohol-related ill health.”
This new research involved telephone interviews with 6,085 randomly selected members of the English public over the age of 16. The participants were asked about their normal drinking patterns as well as being asked about their drinking behaviour on special occasions and in other situations, such as holidays. Most categories of drinkers said that they do indeed drink more during holidays and special occasions.
These results highlight how many individuals may be underestimating their own alcohol intake and, in doing so, underestimating the effects it could have on their health.
“Patterns of consumption have a significant influence on the health impacts of alcohol,” says James Nicholls, of Alcohol Research UK. “For instance, it is widely recognised that any protective effects of moderate drinking on the heart are cancelled out by heavy drinking episodes. If we can better quantify where peaks in consumption occur, among which groups of drinkers, and at what scale, we will be much better placed to target interventions aimed at reducing harm.”