Current UK drinking guidelines suggest that men should not regularly exceed three to four units of alcohol a day, while women should not regularly drink more than two to three units daily. However, researchers from University of Sheffield's Alcohol Research Group (SARG) in collaboration with the University of Stirling have found that the current guidelines about alcohol consumption are so unrealistic that Brit's who are heavy drinkers generally ignore them.
Researchers conducted focus groups to see how the current guidelines were perceived by people aged between 19-65 years and from varied socioeconomic backgrounds. The findings revealed that the guidelines are generally disregarded as the daily intake suggestions are deemed irrelevant in a country where most people do not drink everyday but may drink heavily at the weekend. The results also suggested that people think the recommended quantities of drink are unrealistic, as they do not recognize that many people are motivated to drink to get drunk. It was found that study participants preferred the current Australian and Canadian guidelines, which include separate advice for regular drinking and for single occasion drinking, which were regarded as more relevant and flexible to occasional drinkers.
While the study participants did regulate their drinking, this was usually down to practical issues such as needing to go to work or having childcare responsibilities, rather than health concerns or due to guidance. Presenting the guidelines in units was also seen as unhelpful as majority of the people measure their intake in the number of drinks or containers such as bottles, glasses or pints they consume.
Melanie Lovatt from the University of Sheffield, who led the study said, "These findings not only help to explain why some drinkers disregard current guidelines, but also show that people make decisions about their drinking by considering their responsibilities and lifestyle, rather than just their health."
Professor Linda Bauld from the University of Stirling said, "This research was conducted in both Scotland and England illustrating that the findings have relevance for different parts of the country. Both policy makers and health professionals may find the results useful in considering how people interpret current guidelines and any place these guidelines may have in providing information to advise people about alcohol consumption."
The study is published in Addiction.