Alcohol consumption and health: Be honest about the damage, and we'll be honest about the drinking

According to a new study by academics at University College London, what we drink and what we say we drink are two very - very - different things


So come on then, where are they? Where are the vast underground wine lake, the vodka fountain and the beer river? We hear that the discrepancy between the amount of alcohol sold in this country and the amount consumed is almost 50 per cent. Assuming that we’re all honest about how much we drink, it follows that there must be reservoirs of booze somewhere in Britain’s countryside.

Except, of course, famously we’re not honest about how much we drink. The study – by University College London academics – leads to the conclusion that around half of Britain’s adults must be binge drinkers, although only 13 per cent of women and 22 per cent of men would classify themselves as such. We’re all just such stoopid lushes, we can’t even count. Tequila has addled our brains. Obviously we’re not capable of sticking to the long-established weekly unit guidelines of 14 for women and 21 for men.

But why would we lie, knowing the devastating effects of binge drinking and alcoholism on both our own bodies, and on the NHS budget (MP Diane Abbott puts it at around £21bn)? Doctors and academics are not like employers, or abstemious friends, who will make a judgement call and/or tell others. Their advice – if they’re decent – could be invaluable. Unlike the ever-changing wisdom about red meat, coffee and so on, sustained heavy drinking is without doubt harmful. And we all know what “heavy” is, right?

But are we really to blame for not knowing – hic! - what we’re consuming? A comment in response to the study from the charity Alcohol Concern speaks volumes. “When we’re totting up our drinks total we don’t always count some occasions as proper drinking.” No matter how we do it by rote, generally we acknowledge the steadfast bottle with dinner at home every night when the kids are finally down, and the three pints in the pub every Saturday afternoon with the rugby, etc. But then there is the pub where the “large” glass is vast, the restaurant where the upselling sommelier tops up the wine before you’ve drained the last one, and the host who puts equal measures of both in a G&T.

Rather like preferring to know what exactly the meat is in that burger, if we choose to drink, we should be allowed to know exactly how much we’re drinking.

So, Department of Health, let’s quit with the tiresome DayGlo campaigns that have nebulous goals like “fit for life” and sort out two things, pronto. One, finish the current unit-measurement review and impose a sensible, universally workable scale; and two, enforce a minimum unit cost for alcohol that makes having a drink, or two, or 10 something that we consider, rather than only become dimly aware of the morning after.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn