may 2009

The importance of keeping regular: accurate guidance to the public on low-risk drinking levels

AIM: The aim of this study was to argue that recommendations to the general public on daily amounts for low-risk alcohol consumption must retain the word 'regular' in order to avoid being rejected.

METHOD: Narrative review of the evidence-base for daily limits to alcohol consumption, the guidance the public actually receives in the UK and media reactions to this guidance.

RESULTS: Evidence for daily limits (not more than 3-4 units for men and 2-3 units for women) rests on epidemiological surveys that enquire about 'average' or 'usual' amounts of consumption and this is reflected by the use of 'regular' or 'consistent' in the UK Government's Sensible Drinking report in 1995 and in guidance currently issued by the English Department of Health. In contrast, guidance the public actually receives often omits the word 'regular' and implies that the limits in question are maximum daily amounts. Media reactions to this inaccurate information suggest that the general public is likely to find these recommendations incredible and to reject them.

CONCLUSION: If guidance to the public on daily drinking amounts is to stand any chance of being credible and effective, it must be accurate and must therefore retain the word 'regular'.

Additional Info

  • Authors

    Heather N.
  • Issue

    Alcohol Alcohol / pages 226-228 / volume 44
  • Published Date

    may 2009