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Alcohol intake widely under-reported

Wednesday February 27th, 2013

Britons massively under-report the amount of alcohol they drink, researchers say today.

Previous international studies have suggested that self-reported alcohol consumption only accounts for 40% to 60% of alcohol sales, so a team from University College London, UK, examined the potential effect on public health of this misreporting.

PhD student Sadie Boniface and colleagues used figures from 9,608 adults in the UK who completed a survey in 2008. They compared self-reported alcohol intake with consumption levels adapted to take into account under-reporting, and found that the rate of exceeding national guidelines rises by 15% for men and 11% for women.

This means that 44% of men and 31% of women are likely to be exceeding the weekly guidelines (21 units for men and 14 units for women). The rate of drinkers exceeding the limit in one day could be 75% for men (four units), and 80% for women (three units). Findings appear in the European Journal of Public Health.

"Currently we don't know who consumes almost half of all the alcohol sold in England," said Ms Boniface. "This study was conducted to show what alcohol consumption would look like when all of what is sold is accounted for, if everyone under-reported equally.

"The results are putative, but they show that this gap between what is seen in the surveys and sales potentially has enormous implications for public health in England."

She adds that about half of men and women could be "binge drinking", that is, drinking more than eight units in one session for men, and more than six units for women. What's needed now is a better understanding of why and in what ways people under-report, she believes.

Boniface, S. and Shelton, N. How is alcohol consumption affected if we account for under-reporting? A hypothetical scenario. European Journal of Public Health 27 February 2013

Tags: Drug & Alcohol Abuse | UK News

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