Communication of the alcohol guidelines ‘needs to be improved’

19 September 2017: A study published today concludes that more needs to be done to communicate the drinking guidelines to the public.

The study, published in the Journal of Public Health, found that one month after the release of the current drinking guidelines, only 8% of people knew what the low-risk weekly guideline was.

This is despite the fact that most of the public were aware that new guidelines had been issued.

The current low-risk weekly guideline, drawn up by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers and released in January 2016, is 14 units spread out across the week for both men and women.

This equates to roughly six pints of regular strength beer, or six medium glasses of wine.

The report found that two-thirds of the public believe it is the government’s responsibility to communicate the guidelines.

It also found, in a positive development, that 9 in 10 people agree with the official guidance that if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink.

Commenting on the report, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA), said:

“It is worrying that, a month after the release of the drinking guidelines, only 8% of the public were aware of the low-risk weekly drinking guideline of 14 units a week, spread out across the week.

“As the report makes clear, more needs to be done to ensure the public are aware of the guidelines. The public have the right to know about the guidelines, and about the risks linked with alcohol including cancer, heart disease and liver disease, so that they can make informed choices about their drinking.

“The government needs to make sure that all alcohol labels contain the current low-risk weekly drinking guideline of 14 units for both men and women. Labels should also carry warnings of the specific illnesses linked with alcohol, and point people towards independent health advice on alcohol, like the websites of Public Health England and the NHS.

“The government should also develop public campaigns communicating the guidelines across TV, radio, the press and online. In addition, the government should make sure all healthcare professionals are aware of the current drinking guidelines and the evidence behind them, so that they can communicate this information to patients.

“We also welcome the fact that 9 out of 10 people in this study agreed with the official advice that it is safest not to drink whilst pregnant or whilst trying to become pregnant.”