Middle-Aged are More Ignorant than the Young About Alcohol Levels in Lager and Wine, Study Finds

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Less than a third of adults know how much alcoholic they should limit themselves to per week to stay healthy, a new study has found.

The survey findings also suggest that middle-aged people have as much to learn as the younger generation about the alcohol content of certain drinks and the effects of over-indulging in them.

Just under 29 per cent of people responding to a poll by researchers at the University of Worcester knew the maximum number of alcoholic units it is recommended they should consume per week.

The survey found that while nearly three quarters thought they drank less than the maximum recommendation per week, a high proportion did not know how to calculate units.

Lager and wine accounted for much of the knowledge gap, with 70 per cent of people underestimating how many units are in lager and over a third misjudging the alcohol content in wine.

Middle aged and older respondents, aged 40 to 60, were most likely to underestimate the number of units in these two drinks, with a quarter getting it wrong compared with 15 per cent of 18 to 25-year-olds. People aged 26-39 were almost as unaware as the older age group, with 24 per cent underestimating units in lager and wine.

Professor Dominic Upton, Associate Head of the Institute of Health and Society at the University of Worcester, said: “These findings have important implications since it is clear that most people have little idea about the recommended maximums for alcohol intake.

“Recommendations have changed over the years from weekly limits to daily limits, and the current message states that women should have no more than 2 to 3 units per day and no more than 3 to 4 for men. Additionally, the advice is to have two to three alcohol free days per week. Our survey findings suggest that many people are confused by this.”

Professor Upton added: “The high proportions of people who underestimate how many units are contained in lager and wine are a particular concern since these are very popular drinks. Some respondents showed significant miscalculations, with one guessing that five bottles of wine contained just five units, when this amount could actually contain as much as 45 units. Therefore, it may well be that people are consuming even more units than our findings suggest.”

Professor Upton adds: “It is clear that knowledge of unitary content does not tell us everything. Those aged 40 to 60 appeared to know just as much, if not more on occasions, about the unitary content of alcohol as other age groups, although the impact of alcohol on this age group is significant – with higher rates of admission for people of this age due to alcohol than other age groups. It is therefore apparent that we need to explore attitudes towards drinking in middle aged adults and turn our focus away from labelling young people as the worst offenders for alcohol abuse.”

Many middle aged and older people may have developed a potentially dangerous habit of drinking at home while watching television, unaware that drinks they think are relatively harmless are pushing them over safe limits, Professor Upton warned.

“It can become a regular habit for the older age groups to regularly consume alcohol whilst watching TV, and measures of alcohol in our own homes tend to be much more generous.”

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