What are the lower risk guidelines?
No amount of alcohol consumption is completely safe, however by sticking within these guidelines, you can lower your risk of harming your health.
- Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
- if you do drink as much as 14 units in a week, don't 'save up' your units for 1-2 days
- Spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week
If you want to cut down on your drinking, a good way to help achieve this is to have several drink-free days each week.
Drinking on single occasions
Drinking too much in one go can lead to accidents resulting in injury (causing death in some cases), misjudging risky situations, and losing self-control. You can reduce these risks by:
- limiting the total amount of alcohol you drink on any occasion
- drinking more slowly, drinking with food, and alternating alcoholic drinks with water
- avoiding risky places and activities, making sure you have people you know around, and ensuring you can get home safely
Particular groups that should be more careful of their drinking
Some groups of people are more likely to be affected by alcohol and should be more careful of their level of drinking. These include:
- young adults
- older people
- those with low body weight
- those with other health problems
- those on medicines or other drugs
Pregnancy and drinking alcohol
Doctors recommends that if you’re pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, you should avoid alcohol altogether to keep risks to your baby to a minimum. Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby, with the more you drink the greater the risk.
How many units in a drink?
A single unit of alcohol would equal for example ½ a pint of lager (3.5% ABV), or a small (125ml) glass of wine (10% ABV), or a small (25ml) glass of spirits Other typical drinks would equal in units:
- One pint of 4.5% beer - 2.6 units
- A medium glass of 12% wine - 2.1 units
- A double shot (50ml) of spirits - 2 units
- A small (330ml) bottle of alcopops - 1.7 units
Higher strength drinks have higher alcohol by volume (ABV) - and so are stronger in alcohol, contain more units and more calories.
The health risks start to increase when you go over the lower-risk guidelines. If you're drinking at the increasing or high risk level, then compared to low-risk drinkers, you're increasing your risk of heart disease, cancer and hypertension.
High Risk Drinking
Drinking over 35 units a week as a woman, or over 50 units a week as a man, puts your health at High Risk of harm and disease.
The risk of developing a range of illnesses (including, for example, cancers of the mouth, throat and breast) increases with any amount you drink on a regular basis.