A new study has claimed that the current British alcohol guidelines are unrealistic and largely ignored because they have little relevance to people's drinking habits.
Presenting the guidelines in units was also seen as unhelpful as the majority of people measure their intake in the number of drinks or containers such as bottles, glasses or pints they consume.
The researchers explored how drinkers make sense of the current guidelines which suggest that men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day (equivalent to a pint and a half of 4 percent beer) and 2-3 units for women (equivalent to a 175 ml glass of wine).
The findings show that the guidelines are disregarded as the daily intake suggestions are deemed irrelevant in a country where most people do not drink every day but may drink heavily at the weekend.
"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," explained Melanie Lovatt from University of Sheffield who led the study.
The results also revealed that people think the recommended quantities of drink are unrealistic as they do not recognise that many people are motivated to drink to get drunk.
Participants preferred the current Australian and Canadian guidelines which include separate advice for regular drinking and for single occasion drinking, which was regarded as more relevant for occasional drinkers.
While 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.
"Both policymakers and health professionals may find the results useful in considering how people interpret current guidelines and advise people about alcohol consumption accordingly," noted professor Linda Bauld from University of Stirling. The findings were published online in the journal Addiction