Men who drink just four pints of beer a week are likely to spend more time in hospital, according to research published today.

Researchers from the universities of Glasgow and Bristol looked at the health of almost 6,000 men and found those who drank more alcohol spent more days in hospital.

Those who drank more than 22 units a week – equivalent to at least 11 pints of beer or 22 shots of spirits – were more likely to be admitted and to spend more days in a hospital bed. The number of days spent in hospital even increased slightly in men drinking eight units per week and more, Dr Carole Hart, one of the report's authors, said.

The NHS's guidance is that men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol per week and that women should restrict themselves to a maximum of 14 units.

The report, published today in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, concluded that the overall effects of alcohol were "substantial" and therefore had a "notable effect" on NHS costs. The study followed 5,772 Scottish men for up to 35 years. The men were all aged between 35 and 64 when they were recruited between 1970 and 1973.

The men who drank the most – more than 35 units per week – spent 58 per cent more time in hospital than those who were teetotal.

The heaviest drinkers had the highest number of hospital admissions for strokes, respiratory problems, mental health issues and issues related to alcohol which included accidents, some cancers, chronic liver disease, cirrhosis and alcohol dependence syndrome.

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