A team of researchers from University College London found a significant discrepancy between the amounts of alcohol people buy compared with the quantity people say they drink. Researcher compared alcohol sales data with two alcohol consumption surveys conducted in 2008. Figures suggest that 3\4 of adults in England are drinking more than the recommended daily alcohol limit. They put this down to the missing alcohol that goes unaccounted for.
Sadie Boniface was the lead author of the study and says that further investigation is needed to understand where the discrepancy is coming from.
“Without question it is really important that more research is done to understand how some people may underreport more than others and does this vary between for instance men and women or people with different education levels, or rather, as we think, it is more important the mount someone drinks, the types of drinks they drink and also where they drink as well. We think that the difference is due to lots of reasons, for example people are not just being able to remember. For many people drinking is quite an ordinary part of everyday life. And also people might underestimate how much alcohol is in drinks that they drink usually at home.”
The study suggests that 19% more of men and 26% more of women were regularly exceeding their recommended daily alcohol limit. Chief UK Medical Officer has currently suggested safe weekly consumption of alcohol to be 21 units for men and 14 for women. One unit of alcohol is half a pint of standard beer or a small glass of wine. Dr. James Nicholls is the research manager at Alcohol Research UK and he says that people are still confused by the effects alcohol could be having on their bodies.
“General understanding of how and in what ways alcohol can create problem is generally quite poor. And I think that’s again partly because, you know, you notice a hangover, that’s a really obvious consequence of drinking too much, but the longer term health consequences are very hard for us to be aware of. All sorts of things could be going on in our bodies that we don’t notice.”
The researcher who compiled the report say they will now look at why the underreporting is happening. They suggest it may be down to changing drinking habits and patterns. These include people mixing drinks and drinking at different venues, or simply they can’t remember.
Leader author of the report Sadie Boniface explains that this study can now provide a basis for further research.
“So, for this public health research the research priorities now really are to looking to what causes underreporting. So, do women underreport a lot more than men or not. And we need to understand that a bit better before we meet the stage of planning services and that sort of treatment aspect as well.”
Dr. James Nicholls of Alcohol Research UK agrees, and says that this study can lead onto targeting different parts of society who appear to be underreporting their alcohol consumption.
“What this study does is it shows that there is this discrepancy between what people report and how much we know people are drinking from sales data. And what they say, and I would agree with them, is that we now need to look much more carefully at whether there is a certain section of the population who tends to underreport more than others, whether people tend to underreport more around certain drinks, whether there are people who drink in certain ways who tend to underreport. I think the knowledge of to kind of find the details of drinking behaviors across Britain is again quite poor. And anything that contributes to our understanding of those differences between different drinking groups will be very helpful.”
Chief medical officers from four home nations are currently looking into the official guidelines on alcohol consumption. The Department of Health have said they want to tackle excessive drinking through a proposed minimum unit price of 45 pence coupled with tougher licensing laws and more GP risk assessments.