Charterhouse Clinic has discovered that close to 20% of Britons drink eight or more units in a single session. That’s roughly four pints of low strength beer — or three pints of high-strength beer. This puts them well above the binge-drinking threshold established by the NHS, which is at least six units per session.
The research was part of a wider questionnaire that aimed to understand the nation’s habit so that we can help with any drinking problems identified.
If you or a loved one are affected by alcoholism, you should consider an alcohol detox in a safe, supportive environment.
Question 1. How often do British people drink alcohol?
According to our survey, more than half of Brits drink either rarely or not at all. Slightly more than one in four Brits drink one to four times a week, while just over one in 10 drink more than five times a week.
It’s surprising that “never drinking” was the most popular response to our survey — but not completely out of line with recent research conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). In 2016, an extensive ONS report found that up to one in four British adults didn’t drink at all. The economic downturn and the growth of religions that prohibit drinking in the UK are both possible explanations for this trend.
Question 2. What is one unit of alcohol?
To test whether the public understood what was meant by “a unit of alcohol”, we asked respondents to select the drink that was equal to one unit of alcohol from the list. Shockingly, only 8.4% of people were able to give the correct answer (a shot of tequila).
Much of the drinking advice given to us by doctors and health professionals is communicated in units of alcohol. But if less than one in 10 people actually know what a unit of alcohol is, it seems likely that much of this messaging isn’t getting through.
Question 3. How many units of alcohol can you drink per day?
In the previous question, we established that most respondents don’t actually know what a unit of alcohol is. But we can infer that people tend to undercount the number of units they consume rather than overcount, from the fact that 33.1% thought that a small glass of wine was equal to one unit (actually equal to 1.4).
With this in mind, the above question is likely to be a conservative estimate of drinking behaviour in the UK.
The most common answer was “I don’t drink” and then there’s a gradual scaling down. So a fair number of people drink one or two units, a smaller number drink three or four units and very few people drink five or six units. But then there’s a spike again: 13.5% of people drink seven or more units in a session. This makes them “binge drinkers” according to the NHS.
If you break this response down by age group, some demographics are at higher risk than others. Almost a third of men aged 25-34 reported drinking more than seven units of alcohol in a single session. A single pint of strong beer can contain three units, so drinking three pints in a sitting is binge-drinking.
Question 4. What is the NHS recommended limit for low-risk drinking?
The NHS recommended limit for low-risk drinking is 14 units per week. One in four people were able to select the correct answer. Interestingly, people were more likely to underestimate the low-risk drinking limit. 38.2% of respondents thought that the limit was seven units per week.
It’s important to stress that this is a low-risk limit rather than a no-risk limit. The current thinking is that there’s no “safe” amount of alcohol.
Also, the NHS recommends spreading your drinks across three or four days rather than binge-drinking. It also recommends having three or four days where you don’t drink at all.
Question 5. How many people in the UK need help with their drinking behaviour?
For the final question, we asked respondents to check all statements that applied to them. Each statement is a potential warning sign of alcoholism. The majority of respondents — 67.4% — reported no warning signs.
Of course, this is a self-reported survey, so it’s possible that not everyone was being completely honest!
The most common warning sign of alcoholism was binge-drinking (affecting one in five). One in 10 wanted to cut down on their drinking. One in ten also felt bad about their drinking. Just over one in 20 drink to the point of memory loss (blackouts). Just under one in 20 have been criticised for their drinking and just under one in 20 admitted to drinking first thing in the morning.
Breaking down the responses by gender is also revealing. Men are significantly more likely to report binge-drinking, drinking to the point of memory loss, being criticised for their drinking and drinking first thing in the morning. But it’s the women who are most likely to feel bad about their drinking or want to cut down.
Do you need help with your drinking addiction?
If you recognise any of the problem behaviours identified in the survey above, please get in contact with Charterhouse rehabilitation clinic. You can call 0808 123 0222 for free advice 24/7.