Many Britons have a problematic relationship with drinking, according to a survey carried out by Google on behalf of Charterhouse Clinic Flore , The survey data showed that 21.3% of respondents admitted to drinking “more than seven units of alcohol” in a session. This puts them in the binge-drinking category, according to the NHS.
One in 10 of us would like to cut down on our drinking and feel guilty about the amount that we do drink. One in 20 admitted to drinking to the point of memory loss. One in 20 have also been asked to stop drinking by a friend or family member. Drinking first thing in the morning to steady a hangover was the least common drinking problem, though six respondents admitted to this as well.
Few people understood the limit for “low-risk” drinking, but there was an even split between those who underestimated and overestimated the limit. Just one in four knew that the recommended limit from the NHS for low-risk drinking is 14 units per week.
Not all bad news
There are a rising number of people who don’t drink at all in the UK. 35% of those surveyed said that they never drink. This is an increase compared to an ONS survey from 2016. The 2016 survey found that 21% of adults did not drink at all. 47% of women asked said that they never drink, whereas the figure for men was 23.3%.
In total, more than half of adults reported not drinking regularly, either never drinking or just drinking on three or four occasions a month. Women are more likely to be teetotal than men.
Binge-drinking remains a problem
Men aged 35-44 were the most likely to binge drink. 29.5% of this group admitted drinking more than seven units of alcohol in a single session. The women most likely to drink seven units per session are aged 55-64.
Women aged 55-64 were also the most likely to drink on five or more occasions per week (at 35%). The group that was next most likely to drink five or more times per week was men aged 65 and over (26.4%).
What is a unit of alcohol?
Very few respondents showed a good understanding of what a unit of alcohol is or what low-risk drinking actually looked like. Only 8.4% of people knew that a unit of alcohol is roughly equal to a single shot of spirits. 33.1% thought that a glass of wine is equal to one unit. Actually, a small glass of weak wine is closer to one-and-a-half units, while a medium-strength glass of wine is almost two units.
Similarly, only one in four knew that the NHS’ low-risk drinking limit is 14 units per week.
Potential problem drinkers?
Obi Unaka, a therapist and clinical supervisor at Charterhouse Clinic Flore, is most worried about the men aged 25-34. Almost a third of this group regularly drink more than seven units in a session:
“We’ve all got a friend like that. He’ll want to meet up at the pub after work and he’ll put away three pints of strong beer. And he’ll do it four or five times a week. But three pints of strong beer is nine units of alcohol, which is above the threshold for binge drinking. It puts an incredible strain on the body and will often catch up with them 10 years later — if not sooner.
“Making the problem worse is the fact that many of these guys don’t know they’re binge-drinking or at risk of sliding into alcoholism. Many of the people I see in our rehab clinic start out like this. It’s often only a health problem or a relationship breakdown which forces them to look at their problematic drinking in a new light.”